Senate intel panel subpoenas Flynn for Russia-related documents
WASHINGTON (AP) - WASHINGTON (AP) -- Targeted in widening investigations of his foreign entanglements, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is at odds with his former Turkish client over two unusual payments totaling $80,000 that Flynn's firm sent back last year to the client.
The disagreement points to inconsistencies in Flynn's accounts to the U.S. government about his work for interests outside the United States.
Flynn's company, Flynn Intel Group, told the Justice Department in March that the two $40,000 payments were consulting fees for unspecified work. But Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin has told The Associated Press that the payments from Flynn's firm were refunds for unperformed lobbying.
The difference matters because Flynn's foreign business relationships and the veracity of his disclosures are under scrutiny by congressional, military and intelligence inquiries.
The Senate intelligence committee said late Wednesday it issued a subpoena to compel Flynn to turn over documents related to its investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. Other congressional committees and the Pentagon's inspector general are separately examining whether Flynn was fully forthcoming about his foreign contacts and earnings from organizations linked to the governments of Russia and Turkey. His firm's Turkish work occurred while he was a top Trump campaign adviser.
Earlier in the week, on Monday, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told senators that Flynn's misstatements about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. raised concerns that Flynn could be targeted for blackmail. Yates also cited the possibility that Flynn could have broken federal law by operating as a paid foreign agent for the Turkish client without U.S. government permission.
The Senate intelligence committee said it had previously asked Flynn on April 28 to voluntarily turn over the records it requested, and Flynn declined.
The retired Army lieutenant general and former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency formally told the Justice Department in March that his now-defunct Flynn Intel Group was paid $530,000 for operating as a foreign agent for Alptekin's firm, Inovo BV, and performing work that could have benefited the Turkish government.
That filing, prompted by Justice Department pressure, came just weeks after Trump fired Flynn from his national security post. The president has said he made the decision after it became clear Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations with the Russian ambassador.
The paperwork Flynn filed with the Justice Department raised new questions because it cited two consulting payments back to Alptekin's company without specifying what, if any, work was performed.
Alptekin told the AP in an email that the payments were refunds guided by a verbal agreement he worked out last year with Flynn Intel that set out how much Flynn's firm was to receive each month for lobbying and other contractual work. When Alptekin didn't see any lobbying work, he said, he asked Flynn Intel to refund $80,000.
But Flynn's filing with the Justice Department did not disclose those discussions or the payment arrangements cited by Alptekin.
The U.S. foreign agent law requires disclosure of all written and verbal contracts and modifications. National security law experts said the failure to disclose such discussions could spur additional scrutiny of Flynn if Justice Department officials were to determine the missing material was legally significant.
The law "says disclosure has to include material fact and makes it a crime to omit such material," said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor and national security law expert at the University of Texas School of Law.
Flynn's foreign agent filing included only one contract signed by Flynn and Alptekin. The contract did not mention any adjustments made verbally, Alptekin's lobbying demands, arranging for allotting payments or any consulting role for Alptekin's company, Inovo BV.
In the filing, Flynn's firm said the description of each payment back to Inovo as a "consultancy fee" came from the firm's accounting records. Similar "consultancy fee" entries described payments to other members of the team hired for the work.
Asked about the discrepancies between Alptekin's statements and the filing, Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, said: "We'll stick with what's in the filing." Kelner declined to answer additional questions from the AP about the payment arrangement.
In a brief statement Tuesday, Alptekin again said the payments to his firm from Flynn Intel were refunds for unperformed work. Alptekin also suggested that Flynn Intel's description of the payments as consulting fees was an accounting error.
Flynn Intel's work last year centered on developing evidence for a criminal case against Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants Gulen extradited because he believes Gulen inspired last year's attempted coup against him.
Flynn and Alptekin have, at times, provided inconsistent explanations of the work.
Alptekin said last fall that his company paid only tens of thousands of dollars, but later acknowledged that the $530,000 in payments listed in Flynn's foreign agent filing was correct.
Alptekin's contention that Flynn didn't carry out any lobbying also appears to conflict with Flynn's filing with the Justice Department since the firm reported lobbying activity. It registered with Congress as a lobbyist in September, and Flynn Intel and a contracted public relations firm disclosed lobbying a House committee and an Arkansas state official.
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