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Who Is Michael Flynn? A Closer Look At Trump's Former National Security Adviser

Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, following a status hearing, July 10, 2018. (Manuel Balce Ceneta, File/AP)
Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, following a status hearing, July 10, 2018. (Manuel Balce Ceneta, File/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

A judge delays Michael Flynn’s sentencing for lying to the FBI. We take a look at what happened and track his career from lieutenant general and national security adviser to felon.


Marc Fisher, senior editor at the Washington Post. (@mffisher)

Nicholas Schmidle, staff writer at The New Yorker. He was in the courthouse for Tuesday's hearing. (@nickschmidle)

From The Reading List

CNN: "Michael Flynn sentencing postponed after judge issues blistering rebuke" — "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn expected to be sentenced Tuesday by a federal judge.

"But after almost two dramatic hours in a courtroom discussing his crimes, he asked to postpone his sentencing for several months so he can have more of an opportunity to cooperate in federal investigations and attempt to mitigate the judge's disgust with his actions.

"'I want to be frank with you, this crime is very serious,' federal Judge Emmet Sullivan said in the courtroom Tuesday. 'Not only did you lie to the FBI, you lied to senior officials in the incoming administration.' "

New Yorker: "Michael Flynn, General Chaos" — "Two days before the Inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth President of the United States, Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former intelligence officer, sat down in a Washington restaurant. On the tablecloth, he placed a leather-bound folder and two phones, which flashed with text messages and incoming calls. A gaunt, stern-looking man with hooded eyes and a Roman nose, Flynn is sharp in both manner and language. He had been one of Trump’s earliest supporters, a vociferous booster on television, on Twitter, and, most memorably, from the stage of the Republican National Convention. Strident views and a penchant for conspiracy theories often embroiled him in controversy—in a hacked e-mail from last summer, former Secretary of State Colin Powell called him 'right-wing nutty'—but Trump rewarded Flynn’s loyalty by making him his national-security adviser. Now, after months of unrelenting scrutiny, Flynn seemed to believe that he could find a measure of obscurity in the West Wing, steps away from Trump and the Oval Office. 'I want to go back to having an out-of-sight role,' he told me.

"That ambition proved illusory. Three weeks into his job, the Washington Post revealed that Flynn, while he was still a private citizen and Barack Obama was still President, had discussed American sanctions against Russia with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador in Washington. The conversations were possibly illegal. Flynn and Kislyak’s communications, by phone and text, occurred on the same day the Obama Administration announced the expulsion of thirty-five Russian diplomats in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Flynn had previously denied talking about sanctions with the Ambassador. At the restaurant, he said that he didn’t think there was anything untoward about the call: 'I’ve had a relationship with him since my days at the D.I.A.'—the Defense Intelligence Agency, which Flynn directed from 2012 to 2014. But, in a classic Washington spectacle of action followed by coverup followed by collapse, Flynn soon started backpedalling, saying, through a spokesman, that he 'couldn’t be certain that the topic [of sanctions] never came up.'

"He compounded his predicament by making the same denial to Vice-President Mike Pence, who repeated it on television. Flynn later apologized to Pence. But by then his transgressions had been made public. In a White House characterized by chaos and conflict—a Byzantine court led by a reality-television star, family members, and a circle of ideologues and loyalists—Flynn was finished.

"The episode created countless concerns, about the President’s truthfulness, competence, temperament, and associations. How much did Trump know and when did he know it?"

Washington Post: "The Partisan Warrior: How Michael Flynn morphed from storied officer to purveyor of conspiracy theories" — "What happened to Michael Flynn?

"Before he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, before he became a folk hero to many of President Trump’s most loyal supporters, before he pivoted from accomplished military officer to purveyor of shocking stories about the evils of Islam, something changed in the tough kid who rose to be a three-star Army general.

"His friends and critics agree that after winning a reputation as a master intelligence officer on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, Flynn broke with lifelong patterns of behavior. Once discreet and apolitical, he morphed into a highly partisan alarm ringer. A man once trusted to cautiously analyze information began touting wild hearsay as fact.

"Flynn, 60, is expected to be sentenced in federal court Tuesday after having given prosecutors 19 interviews as part of their investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia. Whatever punishment the court imposes, the mystery of Flynn’s transformation endures."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this show for broadcast.

This program aired on December 19, 2018.


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