For Michael Flynn’s legal defense fund, anything goes

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Due to the “tremendous financial burden” of legal fees, the family of former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn has set up a legal defense fund to help offset the costs of the ongoing Russia investigation.

Breaking his social media silence, Flynn tweeted out a link to the defense fund soliciting donations “only from U.S. citizens and permanent residents.”

Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn, Jr. has also found himself swept up in the Russia investigation. Per an NBC News report from September 13, Flynn Jr.’s involvement in his father’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, is currently being investigated by Mueller.

A popular fixture in #MAGA Twitter circles, Flynn Jr. tweeted out the defense fund link to his more than thirty-six thousand followers.

But how will donations to a legal fund created to defend someone with unsavory connections to foreign governments be regulated?

The last time a White House staffer needed a legal defense fund, in the early years of former President Bill Clinton’s administration, a legal opinion issued by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) allowed for anonymous donations to legal defense funds for one employee, allowing anonymity for those wishing to influence White House investigations. But Flynn isn’t even a federal employee, making the ethical waters even murkier.

While his defense fund website states that “any donations that are identified as originating with foreign nationals will be declined or refunded,” there really nothing that requires Flynn to enforce these rules. Now that Flynn is no longer employed by the government, he no longer faces any disclosure requirements.

“Michael Flynn is no longer a government employee, so he is not subject to government ethics restrictions on legal defense funds,” said Corey Goldstone, communication director for government watchdog group Campaign Legal Center. “He is also not subject to any financial disclosure requirements applicable to federal government employees.”

This would allow the same individual who allegedly covered up a $45,000 payment from Russian state-owned media company RT and $530,000 in fees for work that benefited the government of Turkey in 2016, to self-regulate donations for his own legal defense.

Special Counselor Robert Mueller is narrowing in on Flynn’s connections to foreign governments as part of his broader investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Flynn resigned in the weeks following the inauguration, after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about meetings he had with a Russian diplomat about U.S. sanctions.

After his resignation, Flynn offered to testify to Congressional committees in charge of the Russia investigations in exchange for immunity from prosecution. (His offer was declined.) Flynn was the Trump campaign surrogate who led “lock her up” chants at Trump rallies. During a Meet the Press interview during the campaign he argued that “when you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime.”

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