Lawyers representing former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn have not indicated whether or not they will comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee's subpoena for documents related to his communications with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race and the transition period of President Donald Trump.
On May 18, the chairman of the intelligence committee, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina released a statement revealing that Flynn had yet to respond to a subpoena issued as part of the panel's investigation into the Russian government's alleged subversion of the 2016 election.
"Gen. Flynn's attorneys have not yet indicated their intentions regarding the Senate Intelligence Committee's subpoena," Burr said through a spokesperson, according to ABC News. "Consistent with the committee's position since the beginning of or investigation, I welcome their willingness to cooperate."
Earlier that day, Burr had announced that Flynn's lawyers "said that he would not honor the subpoena, and that's not a surprise to the committee."
The North Carolina senator later clarified his statement, leaving the question of whether Flynn would comply with the subpoena up in the air.
The Intelligence Committee has been probing Russia's alleged meddling the 2016 election, including whether members of the Trump campaign had colluded with Russian officials to benefit their candidate. Flynn, who had worked as Trump's national security adviser during the campaign and served in the White House for less than a month, has been at the center of the controversy.
On Jan. 4, Flynn informed Trump transition team lawyer Don McGahn that he was under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government during the 2016 presidential race despite not registering as a foreign agent, The New York Times reports.
Despite the disclosure, Trump appointed Flynn as his national security adviser. On Jan. 26, former deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told McGahn, who had transitioned into role of White House Counsel, that the DOJ possessed evidence that Flynn had not been forthcoming to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russian officials.
"This was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information,” Yates stated during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 8. “And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”
On Feb. 13, Trump ordered Flynn to resign amid media reports that the national security adviser had lied to Pence about discussing U.S. sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.
On May 18, sources familiar with the FBI investigation into Russia's role in the election disclosed that Flynn had six previously undisclosed instances of communication with Russian officials between April through November 2016. Following the election, Flynn had reportedly discussed with Kislyak the potential of establishing a back channel communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that would circumvent the U.S. national security community, Reuters reports.
The communications had been intercepted by the U.S. intelligence community because they involved Russian officials, who are routinely monitored for national security concerns.
On March 30, Flynn offered to testify before both the House and Senate Intelligence Communities in exchange for immunity. Robert Kelner, Flynn's attorney, stated that the former national security adviser would not "submit to questioning in such a highly politicized, witch-hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution."
On April 1, the Senate panel turned down the offer, according to NBC News.
On April 28, the Senate Intelligence Committee requested that Flynn submit any records related to his communications with Russian officials. When Flynn declined to do so, the panel issued a subpoena on May 10, according to the AP.
If Flynn declines to comply with the subpoena, the intelligence committee could have little legal recourse. The Senate could vote to hold the former national security adviser in contempt, with the decision to file criminal charges moving to the DOJ or a federal court. That process could take years due to procedure, Politico reports.
"The criminal contempt process takes forever — you vote [for] it and then it goes to the U.S. attorney and he has to decide what to do with it," senior counsel Stanley Brand of the Akin Gump firm told Politico. "If they go the civil route, it takes just as long. No matter what option they take, it’s not quick."