February 1, 2017 / 9:16 PM / 3 years ago

Democratic lawmakers want probe of Trump adviser's Russia payment

Former Defense Intelligence Agency Director retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, incoming White House national security adviser, speaks at the U.S. Institute of Peace "2017 Passing the Baton" conference in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of top U.S. House of Representatives Democrats sent a letter on Tuesday asking the Department of Defense to review a paid appearance at a Russian event by retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser.

The letter said it was “extremely concerning” that Flynn was paid to appear at a gala for Russia’s government-funded RT television. The anti-bribery “emoluments” clause of the U.S. constitution bars payments by foreign governments.

“It remains unclear how much General Flynn was paid for his dinner with (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, whether he received additional payments from Russian or other foreign sources on separate occasions, or whether he sought the approval of the Department of Defense or Congress to accept any of these payments,” said the letter from the ranking Democrats on six House committees.

Asked about the letter, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he thought the Department of Defense was an appropriate place for such a review. But he said it did not appear unusual. He noted that Flynn “like I think probably countless if not hundreds of retired flag officers, joined a speaking bureau and has given speeches at various places.”

Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has had warm relations with Putin’s government, which has worried Russia hawks in Congress, who consider Moscow a U.S. opponent on issues ranging from the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine to the civil war in Syria and the hacking of last year’s U.S. election.

Some lawmakers also have questioned Flynn’s relationship with the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He was a paid lobbyist for a consulting firm led by the head of the Turkish-American Business Council, and after last November’s election wrote an article urging the U.S. to cultivate better relations with Erdogan.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle Additional reporting by David Alexander; Editing by John Walcott and James Dalgleish

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