President Trump did not know that Michael Flynn had lobbied on behalf of the government of Turkey before appointing him national security adviser, the White House said Thursday.
“I don’t believe that that was known,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.
The claim that the White House was unaware of Flynn’s lobbying activities raises anew questions of how carefully Trump’s advisers have been investigated for probable conflicts of interest in an administration affected by accusations of such conflicts — beginning with the president’s own businesses.
Flynn tardily showed up this week to the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Unit, admitting that he had worked last year for a company owned by a Turkish businessman that could have aided that country’s government. He was paid $530,000 before Trump won the presidency.
The paperwork designates that Flynn and his firm, Flynn Intel Group Inc., worked for the Turkish company from August to November in a capacity that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”
Spicer said he saw no impropriety in Flynn’s work, which was carried out while he was also advising the Trump campaign.
“When you’re a private citizen, you’re allowed to engage in legal activities,” Spicer said. “I don’t have anything further on that but I think there’s … nothing nefarious about doing anything that’s legal as long as the proper paperwork is filed.”
U.S. citizens who lobby on behalf of a foreign government or political entities are required to register with the Justice Department, according to the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Failure to register is a felony.
TRUMP FORCE SENATE
Democrats accused Trump of trying to force the Senate to confirm his Cabinet-level nominees without allowing them to vetted properly because of a failure to turn in the needed paperwork and reaching agreements with the independent Office of Government Ethics to resolve potential ethical conflicts. Trump nominees to head the departments of the Navy and the Army both withdrew after saying they could not comply with government ethnics rules.
Trump himself has been criticized for not disassociating himself of his businesses, especially his Washington hotel, the building for which he leases from the federal government.
On Thursday, Office of Governmental Ethics Director Walter Shaub blasted the White House for maintaining that officials in the president’s office are not subject to the same ethics rules that apply to other government officials. In a letter, Shaub questioned the White House’s failure to discipline another Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway, for touting the fashion line of Trump’s daughter Ivanka during a television appearance from the White House briefing room.
WHITE HOUSE MAINTAINED
The White House announced last month that it had “counseled” Conway on the breach of ethics rules, but Shaub said that was no enough. “Not taking disciplinary action against a senior official under such circumstances risks undermining the ethics program,” he wrote White House ethics officer Stefan Passantino.
LETTER WHITE HOUSE
Describing a letter from the White House, Shaub said he was “concerned about the extraordinary assertion that ‘many’ OGE regulations are inapplicable to employees of the Executive Office of the President. The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it.”
RELATION WITH RUSSIAN
Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak also raised questions about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the government-run RT news service. Flynn reportedly was paid $40,000 in 2015 to attend a gala marking RT’s 10th anniversary, where he was seated next to Putin.
Flynn was believed to have been an advocate for Trump’s campaign position that he would consider lifting sanctions imposed on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
- Former Trump aide Flynn says lobbying may have helped …
- Trump transition was told of Flynn’s lobbying, congressman …
- Flynn Attended Intel Briefings While Taking Money To Lobby …