The Trump administration is saying that they did not know that Trump’s short lived National Security Advisor Lt. General Michael Flynn was being paid to lobby for a foreign company with ties to the government of Turkey.
“I don’t believe that was known,” Spicer said when asked whether Trump knew about Flynn’s work before he appointed Flynn to his Cabinet.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday night, Vice President Mike Pence said he was not aware either and that he only first heard about it as reports surfaced Thursday that Flynn had registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department earlier this week.
This has given Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) a bat to wield against the Republican administration. Cummings says he wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence
Rep. Cummings told Business Insider through his office that he believes “the problems that have occurred with Lt. General Flynn” could have been avoided had Pence heeded his warnings.
“In addition to being in the press, I warned the Vice President directly three months ago about the conflicts created by Lt. General Flynn’s company lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests,” Cummings said.
“If the Vice President had heeded my warnings, it’s clear now he could have prevented the problems that occurred with Lt. General Flynn. Republicans in Congress are doing a disservice to the White House and our national security interests by not conducting rigorous and serious oversight of the administration, especially to help catch issues early and address them.”
Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish executive who hired Flynn’s firm denies that he is working with the Turkish government.
Flynn’s client, Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, denied working on behalf of the Turkish government and said he disagreed with Flynn’s decision to register as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice.
“I disagree with the filing,” Alptekin, who paid Flynn’s firm just over $500,000 for the four months of lobbying, told the Associated Press on Friday. “It would be different if I was working for the government of Turkey, but I am not taking directions from anyone in the government.”
I’m no lawyer. This all may be one of those situations where there is only “the appearance of impropriety” but it certainly does look a little bit shady. It doesn’t help that Trump’s own business interests have made his administration a target of scrutiny regarding conflicts of interest. Flynn was apparently receiving classified intelligence briefings while working as a lobbyist for a foreign entity.
What stands out to me most here is the repeated promises that Trump’s administration would be employing the “best people.” Practically speaking, people with perceived conflicts of interest are not the “best people” to hire for national security related positions.
Couple that with the oft repeated mantra “extreme vetting” applied to refugees from the Middle East. It doesn’t look like the Trump administration vetted some of it’s own hires, “extremely” or otherwise.