What Law Is Michael Flynn Accused of Violating?

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Michael Flynn at Trump Tower on November 17. (Getty)

Leaders of the House Oversight Committee said today that Michael Flynn may have violated U.S. law when he failed to disclose the fact that he received payment from Russia for a 2015 speech. So what law, specifically, might Flynn have violated here, and what could the punishment be?

Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings of the House Oversight Committee said this week that in 2016, Michael Flynn did not disclose on an application to renew his security clearance that he was paid for a speech delivered for Russia Today in Moscow.

This failure to disclose could be considered a violation of U.S. Code Title 18 Section 1001.

SF 86, the form that must be filled out in order to renew a security clearance, mentions that providing any inaccurate statements or concealing information is a felony.

“The U.S. Criminal Code (title 18, section 1001) provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment,” SF86 reads. “In addition, Federal agencies generally fire, do not grant a security clearance, or disqualify individuals who have materially and deliberately falsified these forms.”

U.S. Criminal Code Title 18 Section 1001 notes that the person must have “knowingly and willfully” falsified or concealed the information.

When asked today whether Michael Flynn could be punished with up to five years in prison, Representative Elijah Cummings said, “Yeah, I think…but that’s going to be left up to others to decide.”

There is also some question as to whether Flynn violated the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which restricts members of the United States government from receiving gifts from foreign states without permission from Congress.

The Emoluments Clause has been interpreted as also applying to retired military personnel; Michael Flynn is a retired Army lieutenant.

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” Jason Chaffetz said during a press conference today. “And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law.”

Chaffetz also said that legally, Flynn was supposed to get permission to receive money from Russia both from the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army, and there is not currently evidence that he did so.

Michael Flynn’s attorney said in a statement today, “As has previously been reported, General Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of DoD, extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings.”

In a press briefing today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that he doesn’t know whether Michael Flynn broke the law.

“That would be a question for him and a law enforcement agency,” Spicer said.