U.S. congressional panels are issuing new subpoenas to Michael Flynn, in an effort to force him to turn over documents and testify about his brief tenure as President Donald Trump's first national security adviser.
Flynn rebuffed the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week, refusing to hand over information it had requested about the 24 days he held the key White House post in the first weeks of the Trump administration. Trump fired him for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States in the weeks before Trump assumed power.
But the Senate intelligence panel, and its counterpart in the House of Representatives, say they are they are issuing new subpoenas to Flynn. He is a retired Army general who was one of Trump's key political surrogates on the campaign trail last year.
“We initially requested his voluntary participation,” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House panel, told reporters Wednesday. “He declined. We are going to be subpoenaing him.”
In refusing to turn over documents to the Senate panel, Flynn invoked his U.S. Constitution Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Legal experts say that if he handed over the information to congressional investigators he would risk not being able to claim the same privilege and refuse to testify before congressional panels investigating how Russia meddled in last year's U.S. election and possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials to help Trump win.
One lawmaker, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, told CNN, "I think he's going to have to tell his story."
Another senator, Susan Collins of Maine, told VOA, the Senate panel issued a new subpoena for Flynn's business records.
"It is dubious that a Fifth Amendment claim can be attached to a request for business records, and that is one reason we are pursuing that route," she said.
Collins said the business records "may indicate payments from the Russian government or affiliated entities. They may indicate meetings that were held. We just don’t know. That’s why we want to examine them."
Flynn was paid more than $30,000 in recent years to attend Moscow events, including a 2015 dinner celebrating the Kremlin-backed RT television network where he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and more than $500,000 to represent Turkish interests in the United States. The Defense Department's inspector general is investigating whether Flynn sought permission to receive the payments after being specifically warned when he retired from the military to not accept money from foreign governments.
While the congressional panels conduct their probes, Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the country's top investigative agency, was named last week to head a criminal investigation about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Trump has been dismissive of the various investigations, contending they are a "witch hunt" promoted by opposition Democrats as an excuse to explain his upset of Hillary Clinton.