White House spokesman: 'I don't know' if Michael Flynn broke law over Russia payments

PHOTO: Michael Flynn attends a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the White House, Feb. 10, 2017. PlayJim Lo Scalzo/EPA
WATCH Mike Flynn may have violated law over Russia payments, House investigators say

House Oversight Committee leaders said today that newly provided classified documents show that President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, may have broken the law when he failed to seek U.S. government permission for or disclose his acceptance of payments from a media organization considered an arm of the Russian government.

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The committee's chairman, Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member, Elijah Cummings, D-Md., spoke to reporters after reviewing classified documents from the Defense Intelligence Agency in a secure area of the Capitol's basement.

"As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else, and it appears as if he did take that money," Chaffetz said of Flynn. "It was inappropriate. And there are repercussions for the violation of law."

Cummings said someone convicted of such a violation could face punishment including "fines and five years imprisonment." He said the information on Flynn in the intelligence documents was "extremely troubling."

Asked by reporters later if Flynn might have broken the law, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, "I don't know," adding that it was a question for a law enforcement agency.

Chaffetz said, "I see no information or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law."

"He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment but to engage in that activity," Chaffetz said. "I see no evidence that he actually did that."

The Oversight Committee has been investigating whether Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, properly disclosed foreign payments he received for work overseas, including a speech in December 2015 to Russia's state-owned TV network Russia Today for which he which he received over $33,000.

Flynn directed the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency until he was pushed out by the Obama administration in 2014. At the time of the RT speech, he continued to hold a top-level security clearance.

Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, said in a statement to ABC News today that Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency "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 March, Chaffetz and Cummings requested documents from the Pentagon, White House, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence regarding Flynn's contacts with foreign nationals and any funds he received from foreign sources.

Separately, the House Oversight Committee claimed today that the White House is "refusing" to provide documents it might have in its possession related to what it knew about Flynn's contacts with foreign groups.

A White House official told ABC that the request is "too broad to fill" and that the White House can't be responsive because the requests "predate the Trump administration."

Trump fired Flynn early in his term as national security adviser for allegedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials.

Flynn was paid nearly $60,000 in 2015 by three Russian firms affiliated with the Kremlin, including RT, according to documents released by Democrats on the Oversight Committee.