Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's "deep ties to defense contractors," explored Friday by Bloomberg, raise additional questions about his potential ethical conflicts as President-elect Donald Trump's national security advisor.
According to Bloomberg:
Just last week, he was re-elected to a paid position on the board of a surveillance drone company with Department of Defense contracts, federal filings show. And while taking part in the classified briefings for Trump last August, he revamped his consulting company—Flynn Intel Group, or FIG—by adding one senior executive whose firm does extensive cybersecurity work for government agencies and another who was soliciting defense department aviation contracts.
Public records, government contracts and documents posted online by Flynn and his partners show that they have vied in recent months for federal contracts to supply overseas military bases, fly diplomats in and out of conflict zones, and provide cybersecurity and technology for defense and intelligence agencies.
These business activities, writes reporter David Kocieniewski, "could conflict sharply with [Flynn's] government role," which will involve daily handling of classified information and input on global military, diplomatic, and intelligence issues—but does not require Senate confirmation.
Yet Kocieniewski reports that "neither Flynn, his partners, nor the Trump transition team responded to repeated questions during the past week about how he plans to comply with federal ethics rules that forbid executive-branch employees from having a financial interest in companies that do business with the agencies they lead."
Just Wednesday, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) wrote to top U.S. intelligence officials to ask that they review Flynn's security clearance, citing both his ownership of FIG as well as this week's revelations that he mishandled classified information while serving as the top military intelligence officer in Afghanistan.
"Based on public reports," the senators wrote, "his conduct in positions that require access to national defense information, and his subsequent private practice, appears inconsistent with the professionalism such access requires."
The "ongoing business relationship of Flynn Intel Group, owned by General Flynn and operated by his son, creates the potential for pressure, coercion, and exploitation by foreign agents," they continued. "In addition, any share of partnership profits he obtains from the Flynn Intel Group that are derived from its representation of a foreign government would appear to be a violation of his obligation as a retired general to abide by the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution."
The latest scrutiny comes on the heels of a letter sent earlier this month from 50 organizations to Trump, demanding he rescind Flynn's appointment "immediately."
That missive pointed to Flynn's "history of bigoted and deceitful statements," opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, penchant for "regime change," and his "alarming ties to foreign governments" as evidence that he is "a completely inappropriate choice to serve in the most senior national security position in the White House."