Congress

Senate panel threatens Flynn with criminal contempt over subpoenas

Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn sits in the front row at a Feb. 10 news conference in the White House. Flynn was fired three days later and now faces a tangle of legal issues over his contacts with Russian officials.
Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn sits in the front row at a Feb. 10 news conference in the White House. Flynn was fired three days later and now faces a tangle of legal issues over his contacts with Russian officials. AP

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could face a criminal charge of contempt of Congress if the Senate Intelligence Committee isn’t pleased with his response to its latest round of subpoenas, the committee leadership announced Tuesday afternoon.

“We keep all options on the table,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the committee’s chairman.

As valuable as Gen. Flynn is to our counterintelligence investigation, we don’t believe it’s our place to offer him immunity.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Burr’s statement came after the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, announced that the committee had issued new subpoenas to two firms associated with Flynn after Flynn rejected an earlier demand for the documents, saying he would plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. Both of the firms are in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington.

Warner said serving subpoenas on the two businesses was an attempt to get around Flynn’s assertion of the Fifth Amendment. Warner said it was clear “that a business does not have a right to take the Fifth if it’s a corporation.”

A contempt-of-Congress conviction can result in a one-year prison term.

“If there in fact is not a response, we will seek advice on how to proceed forward,” Burr said. “At the end of that option is a contempt charge. That’s not our preference today.”

Burr said the committee was still interested in taking Flynn’s testimony.

“We’d like to hear from Gen. Flynn,” he said. “We’d like to see his documents. We’d like to hear his story because he publicly said he has a story to tell.”

Flynn has been at the center of the allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russian efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential elections. A retired Army lieutenant general, Flynn became one of Trump’s closest campaign advisers two months after he was paid in 2015 to speak at a Moscow gala, where he was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, 18 days after the then-acting attorney general had warned the White House that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn has since been implicated in offering misleading answers about his Russia contacts to the Pentagon when he applied to renew his security clearance last year and could face charges for failing to file as a foreign agent after accepting more than $500,000 for representing Turkish interests.

When asked why he had turned down Flynn’s offer to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution, Burr said the committee had discussed that and decided against it.

“We’re not the appropriate avenue to offer immunity in a potential criminal investigation,” he said. “As valuable as Gen. Flynn is to our counterintelligence investigation, we don’t believe it’s our place to offer him immunity.”

Warner said one subpoena had been served and that he expected the second one to be served Tuesday evening.

The announcement came a day after Flynn’s lawyer notified the committee that Flynn would not appear and would not produce the documents, citing the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives a person the right to avoid self-incrimination.

Matthew Schofield: 202-383-6066, @mattschodcnews

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