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Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Photo: Susan Walsh / AP

House Democratic leaders copied Special Counsel Robert Mueller on a letter yesterday stating that former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared to break the law, per CNN. They argue that he failed to disclose a trip to the Middle East to broker a business deal with Saudi Arabia and a Russian government agency in June 2015.

  • The letter was drafted by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the oversight committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee.
  • It was sent to Flynn's former business partners and requested documents relating to his trip.

Why it matters: Flynn is already under intense scrutiny by Mueller for his ties to Russia, his calls to the Russian ambassador during Trump's transition period, and the undisclosed work he did for Turkey last year.

Flashback: In June, Cummings and Engel, who have been investigating Flynn's security clearance, sent a letter to three U.S. companies where Flynn previously worked requesting documents about his time in Saudi Arabia and Russia. The lawmakers claimed that Flynn had failed to report his foreign travels and contacts in a 2016 application to renew his security clearance.

In response, officials from the companies provided Cummings and Engel with statements confirming Flynn traveled to the Middle East in June 2015 to work on a $100 billion joint U.S.-Russian venture to develop nuclear facilities. The deal was to be financed by Saudi Arabia.

Details of the controversial deal: The deal Flynn was involved in proposed that American consulting firms team up with the Saudi government and a Russian government-run nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, to build 16 nuclear energy plants in Saudi Arabia. "Saudi Arabia would then sell that energy to eight other Sunni Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan," according to CNN. Those countries would also buy military arms from Russia as part of the deal, per the American companies' letters provided to Democrats.

As CNN points out, the weapons sales would have likely been facilitated by Russian state-run arms exporter Rosoboron, which was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in September 2015 for violating U.S. laws that bar arms sales to Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Go deeper

13 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.