Red flags flew early on over the rise of Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn. But President Donald Trump clearly trusted and liked him, so nothing else mattered as he hoisted him into the top tier of the U.S. government.
Flynn already had been canned after two years as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. Press reports of Flynn’s 2014 DIA ouster were couched in the jargon typical of a personnel shake-up.
Insiders anonymously cited Flynn’s “chaotic management style.” They said his vision for the agency was disruptive and hindered by inadequate follow-through.
Maybe the Obama administration’s rebuke of Flynn gave Trump all the more inspiration to embrace him.
One can plausibly imagine the general telling the reality TV show host of having been martyred for trying, in the face of political correctness, to protect America from the enemy threat.
By 2016 the American public got to see Flynn at the Republican National Convention egg on the “lock-her-up” chanters against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
No one at that moment would have mistaken Flynn for, say, a military professional too disciplined to let himself sound in public like an angry loudmouth.
Once Trump took office, Flynn would last only three weeks as national security adviser. Shortly after, Trump allegedly asked FBI Director James Comey to leave Flynn alone regarding the federal probe of Russian actions during the election.
Now that Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, one nagging question is why Trump’s trusted “good guy” didn’t just tell the unvarnished truth. Trump tweeted Saturday Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence, and to the FBI. The president didn’t say how he would have known then about the FBI falsehood.
Flynn admitted lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, regarding several matters, including economic sanctions, as the new administration prepared to take over.
The Kislyak contacts involved fruitless transition-time efforts to block a United Nations resolution criticizing Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed lame-duck Obama, who was still president.
For now, other controversial Flynn dealings are set aside — such as his lobbying for an entity with ties to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his speeches for the Kremlin-funded English language network RT.
Flynn says he’ll cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. To what result, nobody yet knows. Trump lawyer Ty Cobb can credibly say that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”
Not yet, anyway.