Who Is Michael Flynn?
Michael Flynn began his 33-year Army career as a second lieutenant in military intelligence. After three years as intelligence chief of the JSOC in Iraq, he returned stateside for top bureaucratic posts but was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. Flynn emerged as a strong supporter of presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016, and was named Trump's national security adviser in November. He resigned after 24 days in office over the revelation of his contact with the Russian ambassador, and subsequently faced legal problems related to his lobbying interests and failures to disclose information. In December 2017, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Michael Thomas Flynn was born in December 1958 in Middletown, Rhode Island. One of nine children, he grew up in a busy, but loving Irish Catholic household, with dad Charles, a former Army sergeant, and mom Helen stressing the importance of education.
Flynn engaged in an array of athletic activities as a child and teenager, from driveway basketball games to surfing. He also excelled in football at Middletown High School, leading the team to a Division B state championship in 1976. He then enrolled at the University of Rhode Island, where he joined the ROTC program and earned a degree in management science in 1981.
U.S. Army Officer
After graduation, Flynn joined the U.S. Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant in military intelligence. He was assigned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, from where he was deployed as a platoon leader to Grenada in 1983.
Flynn received a steady string of promotions as he rotated from posts at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, Fort Polk in Louisiana and Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Additionally, he was named chief of joint war plans for the American invasion of Haiti in 1994.
By the time of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Flynn was well positioned for top roles in his field. He served as director of intelligence for Joint Task Force 180 in Afghanistan until 2002, and commanded the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade for another two years.
In 2004, Commander Stanley McChrystal appointed Flynn director of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Iraq. Taking advantage of technological resources, Flynn mined cell phone data and utilized drones to infiltrate terrorist cells, and was credited with largely disrupting Al Qaeda activity in the area.
Returning stateside after three years, Flynn became director of intelligence for United States Central Command and then the Joint Staff. In 2009, after McChrystal took command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, he again placed his old colleague in charge of intelligence. Flynn followed with a report that criticized American operations in the region, a move that rankled supervisors.
After a stint in the office of National Intelligence, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. He attempted to reorganize the agency but instead alienated many subordinates, and was informed he would not remain for the normal three-year term. In August 2014, he retired after 33 years in the military, with the rank of lieutenant general.
Private Consultant to Trump Administration
Back in the private sector, Flynn formed the Virginia-based Flynn Intel Group, which offered private intelligence and security services, and he signed on with a speakers' bureau. He also made the rounds as a television analyst, including appearances on the Russian state network RT. In late 2015, he sat next to Russian president Vladimir Putin at an RT banquet.
After three decades spent largely behind the scenes, Flynn surprised former colleagues with his sudden outspokenness and turn toward more extreme positions. He tweeted "Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL" in February 2016, and that summer he co-authored a book, The Field of Fight, on how to combat radical Islam. At the 2016 Republican National Convention, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy over the transgressions of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, leading the chant of "lock her up!"
After serving as Republican nominee Donald Trump's go-to man for national security issues over the final months of the campaign, Flynn was rewarded with the post of national security adviser in November 2016.
Dismissal and Investigations
Flynn came under fire almost immediately after the election, beginning with a report that he had lobbied for Turkish interests during the U.S. presidential campaign. It was soon revealed that, prior to taking office, he had contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak over President Barack Obama's recently issued sanctions. Flynn subsequently resigned on February 13, 2017, after just 24 days as national security adviser, the shortest tenure in the history of the position.
Flynn's problems continued to mount through various congressional investigations, drawing scrutiny for his failures to register as a foreign agent, disclose compensation and comply with subpoenas. Additionally, he remained a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into ties between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials.
The wagons seemed to be circling Flynn by November, when news reports revealed that his son, also named Michael, was a subject of investigations. Later that month, lawyers for the elder Flynn told President Trump's legal team that they were no longer able to share information about their client's cooperation with the Mueller probe.
On December 1, 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the previous year's presidential transition. Prosecutors said that Flynn had agreed to cooperate with the authorities, and that at least some of his contacts with Russian officials had been coordinated with a "senior official of the presidential transition."
After appearing in federal court in Washington, D.C., Flynn released a statement that said: "I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel's office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country."
After switching up his legal team in 2019, Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea in January 2020, accusing prosecutors of "bad faith" after they sought a six-month prison sentence for him. Shortly afterward, Attorney General William Barr asked another district attorney to conduct a review of the federal investigation of Flynn, which, according to new lawyer Sidney Powell, produced evidence that showed her client had been "framed" by FBI.
On May 7, the Justice Department filed a request with a federal judge to drop the criminal case against Flynn. According to the filing, the DOJ considered the FBI's investigation "no longer justifiably predicated," adding that it did not believe Flynn's statements to be "material even if untrue." A few days later, the judge overseeing the case said he would set a schedule for outside parties to present arguments about the government's unusual request for a dismissal. On June 24, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan was ordered to dismiss the criminal case.
On November 24, 2020, Trump issued Flynn a full pardon. "The President has pardoned General Flynn because he should never have been prosecuted," a statement from the White House read. "An independent review of General Flynn’s case by the Department of Justice — conducted by respected career professionals — supports this conclusion. In fact, the Department of Justice has firmly concluded that the charges against General Flynn should be dropped. This Full Pardon achieves that objective, finally bringing to an end the relentless, partisan pursuit of an innocent man."
Flynn has garnered some of the military’s top honors, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal and Legion of Merit. Additionally, he has acquired graduate degrees in telecommunications, military arts and sciences and national security and strategic studies, as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from The Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C.
Flynn has two sons with his high school sweetheart, Lori. His brother Charlie also became a decorated Army officer, with Michael pinning the general's star on his sibling during a ceremony in September 2011.
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