Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn has declined to comply with a subpoena from the US Senate Intelligence Committee as it investigates possible Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, according to a letter to the Senate committee from his lawyer on Monday, which was obtained by Reuters.
The retired lieutenant general is a key witness in the Russia probe.
Flynn’s lawyers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the top Republican and Democrat on the panel, say they are disappointed by Flynn’s decision, but will “vigorously pursue” his testimony.
The committee is conducting one of the main congressional probes into US intelligence agency reports of Russian meddling in the election and whether there was any collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations and Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.
Flynn apparently misled Pentagon investigators about his foreign connections when he sought to renew his security clearance in early 2016, according to a document obtained by congressional Democrats and released in part on Monday.
Flynn, interviewed as part of the clearance renewal process, said that all of his foreign trips as a private citizen “were funded by US companies,” according to excerpts of a March 14, 2016 report compiled by security clearance investigators.
In fact, a trip Flynn made to Moscow in December 2015, where he attended a gala dinner and sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was paid for by Russia Today, which US officials consider a state-run propaganda arm, according to documents previously released by the House Oversight Committee.
The document is the latest to shed light on how Flynn received a security clearance and was subsequently hired as Trump’s national security advisor. He was forced to resign from the job in February after less than a month for failing to disclose the content of his talks with Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and then misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
The Senate committee first requested documents from Flynn in an April 28 letter, but he declined to cooperate with the request. Then it issued a subpoena.
In response, his lawyer wrote to the committee that “the context in which the Committee has called for General Flynn’s testimonial production of documents makes clear that he has more than a reasonable apprehension that any testimony he provides could be used against him.”
Flynn’s legal team say he’s rejecting the subpoena because the committee spurned his offer, made in a May 8 letter.
It was not clear what the committee would do if Flynn decided not to comply.
On Monday, Senator James Lankford, a Republican member of the intelligence panel, said on Twitter that Flynn was within his rights to invoke the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.
“We will get to the truth one way or another,” Lankford said on Twitter. “We need facts, not speculation & anonymous sources.”