Fact Check: Donald Trump’s White House Fails Fact Check On Michael T. Flynn

The Donald Trump White House has found itself in hot water again after the former National Security Adviser recently filed financial documents with the Department of Justice. Those documents reveal that Michael Flynn’s company, a firm called Flynn Intel Group Inc., identified Flynn as a “foreign agent” and acknowledged his work with a Turkish businessman that aided the Turkish government according to NBC News.

The White House has responded to this knowledge, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying, “I don’t believe that that was known.” Vice President Mike Pence went on Fox News to say this is the first he’s heard of it.

Both of these statements are a fact check fail for Donald Trump’s White House. What Vice President Pence said was, “Well, let me say here today, that this is the first I have heard of it. I fully support the decision President Trump made to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.”

This is demonstrably false. In a November 18 letter sent by ranking member of the House Oversight Committe, Elijah Cummings, to then Vice President-elect Michael Pence, Michael Flynn’s foreign lobbying, specifically to Turkey, was detailed explicitly to VP Pence.

In November, 10 days after the election, this is what Mr. Cummings wrote to the then Vice President-elect.

“I am writing to raise questions about the apparent conflicts of interest of the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Transition team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn….recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm Flynn Intel Group Inc was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests. Lt. Gen. Flynn’s General Counsel and Principal Robert Kellye confirmed that they were hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests.”

The letter also notes that on Election Day, November 8, Michael Flynn wrote an Op-Ed for The Hill titled, “Our Ally Turkey Is In Crisis And Needs Our Support.” Rep. Cummings then requested signed copies of Michael Flynn’s Code of Ethical Conduct, a copy of “any other signed statement” by Flynn where he asserted that he does not have a financial conflict of interest, copies of any information provided by Flynn to determine who his business clients were, and a copy of the “Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Transition Procedures signed by you [Mike Pence] as the Designated Chair of the Team.”

It is unclear whether or not Rep. Cummings ever received the information requested.

Financial records revealed by Scott Dworkin of the Democratic Coalition also show that Michael Flynn’s company represented an Iraqi military group trained by the Turkish government.

This has been publicly available information, since well before Inauguration Day. For Vice President Pence to say he did not know of this is demonstrably false, and a fact check fail. It raises the question of what else Vice President Pence knew about Michael Flynn, when he said otherwise.

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NBC News reported that Michael Flynn and his company Flynn Intel Co. filed paperwork with the Department of Justice this week that described over $530,000 of financial lobbying prior to election day. The lobbying was on behalf of a company owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. Alptekin reportedly told the Associated Press that Michael Flynn filed this information upon pressure from the Department of Justice.

It is the first formal recognition of Michael Flynn’s extensive foreign lobbying work, and first formal sign that Michael Flynn furthered foreign interests, while working as the Vice Chair of the Trump Transition Team. But the public reports on these activities have been in the news for months.

NBC News reported that this formal disclosure on Flynn’s lobbying work with Turkey’s authoritarian government comes as Flynn is under increasing scrutiny by the FBI for Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials. Last month Michael Flynn was fired by Donald Trump’s White House for misleading statements on his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Vice President Pence said that Michael Flynn told him he did not have contact with the ambassador. Vice President Pence also said this week that this is the first he has heard of Flynn lobbying for Turkey. But Vice President Pence did know of this lobbying, as early as 10 days after the election. A pro-Turkey Op-Ed on Election Day may also have been a clue for Vice President-elect Pence.

Flynn’s filing to the Department of Justice this week says that this very lobbying “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” The Turkish Embassy has declined to comment on the story, as has Michael Flynn and his legal representation.

Press Secretary for the White House Sean Spicer said, “There’s nothing nefarious about doing anything that’s legal as long as the proper paperwork is filed.”

But Spicer declined to answer on whether or not Flynn would have been hired if Donald Trump knew of the lobbying. But we do know that Donald Trump, or at least Vice President Pence, Chairman of the Trump Transition Team, knew of the lobbying. Michael Flynn was hired anyway.

Upon joining the Donald Trump White House, Michael Flynn agreed not to lobby for five years. The Foreign Agent Registration Act requires any American citizen to disclose their efforts to the Justice Department. Not doing so is a felony.

The Democrats are not happy about any of this. NBC News reported that Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen for New Hampshire finds it “troubling” and indicative of a larger pattern of “poor judgement” in the White House.

“General Flynn’s behavior seems to be part of a larger pattern of poor judgement from members of this administration.”

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Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal for Connecticut, and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement saying any foreign monies received by Flynn should be returned.

“This astonishing admission is more appalling evidence of foreign entanglements and conflicts of interest involving the Trump team.”

Senator Blumenthal also says this adds one more reason to the long list of reasons why a special prosecutor needs to be called into investigate the Trump Administration’s foreign ties.

One of the first signs of these foreign ties was reported in Politico on November 14, in a headline “Trump Adviser Linked To Turkish Lobbying.” This was six days before Mike Pence would receive the letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings asserting the same thing.

The same day that Vice President-elect Mike Pence received that letter, the Associated Press released a report titled “Flynn: Critic of Muslim Militancy And Culture.” The report detailed Michael Flynn’s criticism against Muslim extremism, and his frequent use of the term “radical Islam.”

That same report revealed that while Flynn was issuing dark warnings about the fear-based term “radical Islam,” he was privately lobbying for Turkey, a known authoritarian and Islamist leaning government.

On November 29, Al Ahram Weekly published an opinion column called “Trump’s Terrorist Friends.” That report revealed Trump’s Saudi connections, Flynn’s Turkey connections, and Rudy Giuliani’s lobbying in Iran, among other things. On December 15, Bloomberg went public with a report that Michael Flynn has deep ties to defense contractors overseas, with a Dutch company connected to Turkish president Recep Erdogan.

These are just a few examples of the many chronicling Michael Flynn’s Turkey connections. A Google search using the words “Michael Flynn Turkey” yields over 500 thousand results.

For Donald Trump’s White House, and any member of Donald Trump’s White House, to say they were not aware of Michael Flynn’s lobbying in Turkey is demonstrably false. Or, the statements of the Press Secretary, the President, and the Vice President suggest they do not read.

[Feature Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]