Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general whom U.S. President Donald Trump ousted as his national security adviser in February, was paid nearly $68,000 by Russian interests in 2015, according to newly released documents.
The amount that Flynn received, higher than previously known, largely came from a $45,386 fee he was paid by the Kremlin-funded RT television network. Flynn traveled to Moscow to help promote RT's 10th anniversary — a trip that included a gala dinner at he was seated at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In addition, Flynn received two $11,250 payments, one from the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian cybersecurity firm and another from Volga-Dnepr Airlines, a Russian carrier that runs charter flights.
The extent of the payments to Flynn added a new chapter into a string of contacts Trump aides had with Moscow in the months before Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election in November, as well as during the transition period before he took office in January.
Since then, federal investigators and lawmakers have been poring over documents compiled by the U.S. intelligence community, which concluded that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
Worked for Turkey, too
Flynn, 58, also was paid $530,000 last year to lobby for Turkey while he was advising Trump during the billionaire real estate mogul's campaign. After his resignation from Trump's Cabinet, Flynn retroactively registered his activities as an agent representing Turkey in a filing earlier this month.
Trump had named Flynn as his national security adviser before the president was sworn into office. However, Flynn served as head of the National Security Council for just 24 days before he was forced to step down — not specifically because of his Russian and Turkish ties, according to Trump administration officials, but because he'd misled Vice President Mike Pence by failing to declare his meetings with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.
Flynn had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the post-election transition period without advising the administration of former President Barack Obama, who was still in office at the time. Flynn also gave other White House officials a false version of his contacts with the Russian envoy.
Flynn's meetings with Kislyak were discovered through routine surveillance of the ambassador, sources familiar with U.S. intelligence operations have said.
Trump said he was not concerned about Flynn's contacts with Kislyak, but that he asked for the NSC director's resignation because he had misled and embarrassed Pence. The Flynn case, with many details emerging from information leaked by White House officials and others, was one of a series of chaotic episodes during the first weeks of the Trump presidency.
Details of the Russian payments to Flynn were disclosed by U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Government Oversight Committee.
In a letter he addressed to Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and FBI Director James Comey, Cummings asked whether Flynn fully disclosed his links to Russia and Turkey before he received a national security clearance and was named to the White House post.
"I cannot recall any time in our nation's history when the president selected as his national security adviser someone who violated the Constitution by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from an agent of a global adversary that attacked our democracy," Cummings said. "I also cannot recall a time when the president and his top advisers seemed so disinterested in the truth about that individual's work on behalf of foreign nations, whether due to willful ignorance or knowing indifference."