WASHINGTON — The Defense Intelligence Agency is refusing to publicly release a wide array of documents related to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, saying that turning them over could interfere with ongoing congressional and federal investigations.
Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former DIA director, is a central player in the investigations into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign and his associates coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Flynn also has faced heavy scrutiny for issues related to his own contacts with Russia, receipt of foreign payments and unregistered lobbying work he performed for a Turkish businessman.
Just last week, Flynn’s attorneys cut off contact with Trump’s attorneys, a signal that he could be cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller or trying to work out a deal with prosecutors.
In a series of letters, the DIA denied several Freedom of Information Act requests filed over the past year by The Associated Press because they “could reasonably be expected to interfere with on-going law enforcement investigative activities.”
Mueller and several congressional committees are scrutinizing Flynn’s private consulting work for a Turkish businessman and his contacts with Russia during the campaign and early days of the Trump administration. The Defense Department’s inspector general also is investigating Flynn’s receipt of foreign payments as a retired military officer.
The AP’s requests were related to Flynn’s tenure at the DIA from 2012 to 2014. The AP sought Flynn’s public and private calendars, his correspondence while at DIA and a specific listing of documents related to his security clearance that the agency provided to Congress earlier this year. Two of the AP’s requests were filed before Mueller’s appointment and one of those was filed the day before Trump took office.
DIA spokesman U.S. Navy Cmdr. William Marks said the agency’s decision is temporary and it is committed to making the information public once the investigations are closed.
“Investigations don’t go on forever, and we will not use that as a way to withhold information from the public,” Marks said.
DIA’s denials of the AP’s requests appeared to be part of a wider effort across the Defense Department involving Flynn-related records.
Even though the AP’s requests were made months apart, they were all denied on Nov. 15. BuzzFeed News also reported Tuesday that it had received a similar denial for records related to Flynn. The BuzzFeed request was nearly three years old, but it was denied the same day as the AP’s requests.
The denial letters all note that the agency’s general counsel made sure the denials were in “coordination with other responses across the Department of Defense” and wouldn’t compromise ongoing investigations into Flynn.
Flynn, who was forced to resign from his White House post in February, faces a number of possible legal troubles.
The special counsel and congressional committees have been scrutinizing Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the presidential transition and the campaign. He has also been under federal investigation for nearly a year over lobbying and investigative research work his firm, Flynn Intel Group, performed for a Turkish businessman.
Prosecutors and FBI agents working for Mueller have been investigating whether the Turkish government was directing the lobbying work and not the private company that Flynn cited in a filing with the Justice Department. Investigators have also been looking into Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., who worked alongside his father, and Flynn’s business partner, Bijan Kian.
Flynn has also faced scrutiny whether he lied to federal investigators and on his security clearance paperwork.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified earlier this year that Flynn was the target of a federal investigation into his contacts with Russia and whether he lied to FBI agents about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Separately, congressional Democrats have said they believe Flynn lied during DIA’s security clearance review about his foreign contacts and travel.
Flynn has also been accused of breaking federal law by accepting tens of thousands of dollars in payments from RT, the Russian state-sponsored television network.
Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.