Michael Thomas Flynn (born December 1958) is a retired United States Army lieutenant general, who served in the Army for 33 years until 2014. Flynn's military career included a key role in shaping U.S. counterterrorism strategy and dismantling insurgent networks in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he was given numerous combat arms, conventional, and special operations senior intelligence assignments. He was appointed by President Barack Obama as the eighteenth director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, serving from July 2012 to his retirement from the military in August 2014. After leaving the military, he established Flynn Intel Group which has provided intelligence services for businesses and governments, including ones in Turkey. Flynn also briefly served as the twenty-fifth National Security Advisor for President Donald Trump, from January 20 to February 13, 2017.
Flynn was forced to resign as Trump's National Security Advisor after information surfaced that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature and content of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Flynn's tenure of just 24 days was the shortest in the history of the office. On April 27, 2017, the Pentagon inspector general announced an investigation into whether Flynn had accepted money from foreign governments without the required approval. Flynn initially refused to hand over subpoenaed documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, pleading the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, but a compromise with the committee was worked out.
Michael Flynn graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Science degree in management science in 1981 and was a Distinguished Military Graduate of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. He also earned a Master of Business Administration in Telecommunications from Golden Gate University, a Master of Military Art and Science from the United States Army Command and General Staff College, and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.
Flynn is a graduate of the Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course, Ranger School, Military Intelligence Officer Advanced Course, Army Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies, and Naval War College.
Flynn was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in military intelligence, in 1981. His military assignments included multiple tours at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, and Joint Special Operations Command, where he deployed for the invasion of Grenada and Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. He also served with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Flynn served as the assistant chief of staff, G2, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from June 2001 and the director of intelligence at the Joint Task Force 180 in Afghanistan until July 2002. He commanded the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade from June 2002 to June 2004 and was the director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command from July 2004 to June 2007, with service in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and the Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom). He served as the director of intelligence of the United States Central Command from June 2007 to July 2008, as the director of intelligence of the Joint Staff from July 2008 to June 2009, then the director of intelligence of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from June 2009 to October 2010.
In September 2011, Flynn was promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned as assistant director of national intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. On April 17, 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Flynn to be the 18th director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn took command of the DIA in July 2012. He simultaneously became commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and chair of the Military Intelligence Board.
In October 2012, Flynn announced plans to release his paper "VISION2020: Accelerating Change Through Integration", a look at changes he believes are necessary for the DIA in the future. It was at the DIA that Flynn met Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whom Flynn would elevate to the National Security Council in 2017.
On April 30, 2014, Flynn announced his retirement effective later that year, about a year earlier than he had been scheduled to leave his position. He was reportedly effectively forced out of the DIA after clashing with superiors over his allegedly chaotic management style and vision for the agency. In a private e-mail that was leaked online, Colin Powell said that he had heard in the DIA (apparently from later DIA director Vincent R. Stewart) that Flynn got fired because he was "abusive with staff, didn't listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc." According to The New York Times, Flynn exhibited a loose relationship with facts, leading his subordinates to refer to Flynn's repeated dubious assertions as "Flynn facts".
According to what Flynn had told in one final interview as DIA director, he felt like a lone voice in thinking that the United States was less safe from the threat of Islamic terrorism in 2014 than it was prior to the 9/11 attacks; he went on to believe that he was pressed into retirement for questioning the Obama administration's public narrative that Al Qaeda was close to defeat. Journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that "Flynn confirmed [to Hersh] that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings ... about the dire consequences of toppling [Syrian President] Assad." Flynn recounted that his agency was producing intelligence reports indicating that radical Islamists were the main force in the Syrian insurgency and "that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria". According to Flynn, these reports "got enormous pushback from the Obama administration," who he felt "did not want to hear the truth". According to former DIA official W. Patrick Lang: "Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria ... they shoved him out. He wouldn't shut up." In an interview with Al Jazeera, Flynn criticized the Obama administration for its delay in supporting the opposition in Syria, thereby allowing for the growth of Al Nusra and other extremist forces: "when you don't get in and help somebody, they're gonna find other means to achieve their goals" and that "we should have done more earlier on in this effort, you know, than we did."
Flynn retired from the U.S. Army with 33 years of service on August 7, 2014.
Flynn, with his son Michael G. Flynn, ran the Flynn Intel Group Inc, which provided intelligence services for business and governments before closing in 2016. The company was founded in the fall of 2014, and restarted in June 2015 as a Delaware company. Flynn was paid over $65,000 by companies connected to Russia in 2015, including $11,250 from both Volga-Dnepr Airlines and the U.S. subsidiary of Kaspersky Lab. Other clients included Palo Alto Networks, Francisco Partners, Brainwave Science and Adobe Systems. While working as a consultant Flynn served on the board of several organizations, including GreenZone Systems, Patriot Capital, Brainwave and OSY Technologies.
In July 2016, Flynn spoke at a meeting of ACT! for America at a point when the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was still underway. He spoke favorably of the coup participants, saying that Erdoğan had been moving Turkey away from secularism and towards Islamism, and that participants in the coup wanted Turkey to be and to be seen as a secular nation—a goal "worth clapping for." But by the end of September 2016, Flynn's consulting company was hired by a company owned by the Chair of the Turkish-American Business Council, which is an arm of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK), and on November 8 (election day in the United States), an op-ed written by Flynn was published by The Hill, calling for U.S. backing for Erdoğan's government and criticizing the regime's opponent, Fethullah Gülen, alleging that Gulen headed a "vast global network" that fitted "the description of a dangerous sleeper terror network". At the time, Flynn did not disclose that his consulting firm had received funds from a company with ties to the Turkish government. After Flynn's ties had been disclosed by The Daily Caller, Politico, and others, the editor of The Hill added a note to Flynn's op-ed, stating that Flynn had failed to disclose that he had been engaged at the time in "consulting work that might have aided the government of Turkey," that his firm had received payments from a company with close ties to the Turkish government, or that the company had reviewed the draft of the op-ed before it was submitted to The Hill.
On March 8, 2017, Flynn registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying work before election day. This work was done on behalf of a Dutch-based company which may have been working for the Turkish government. On March 24, 2017, former Director of the CIA James Woolsey said that in September 2016 Flynn, while working for the Trump presidential campaign, had attended a meeting in a New York hotel with Turkish officials including foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and energy minister Berat Albayrak, son-in-law of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and had discussed abducting Fethullah Gulen and sending him to Turkey, bypassing the U.S. extradition legal process. Gulen is an opponent of the Erdoğan regime and has been accused by the regime of plotting the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt.
Flynn sat in on classified national security briefings with then-candidate Trump at the same time that Flynn was working for foreign clients, which raises ethical concerns and conflicts of interest.
On December 10, 2015, Flynn attended a gala dinner in Moscow in honor of RT (formerly "Russia Today"), a Russian government-owned English-language media outlet, on which he made semi-regular appearances as an analyst after he retired from U.S. government service. Flynn sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the dinner, leading Journalist Michael Crowley of Politico to report that "at a moment of semi-hostility between the U.S. and Russia, the presence of such an important figure at Putin's table startled" U.S. officials. As part of the festivities, Flynn gave a talk on world affairs for which he was paid at least $45,000. Flynn defended the RT payment in an interview with Michael Isikoff.
On February 1, 2017, the ranking Democratic members on six House committees sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, requesting a Department of Defense investigation into Flynn's connection to RT. The legislators expressed concern that Flynn had violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution by accepting money from RT. A 2017 report by the United States Intelligence Community characterized RT as "The Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet" and said that RT America is set up as an autonomous nonprofit organization "to avoid the Foreign Agents Registration Act".
As a retired military intelligence officer, Flynn was required to obtain prior permission from the Defense Department and the State Department before receiving any money from foreign governments. Flynn apparently did not seek that approval before the RT speech, and he did not report the payment when he applied for renewal of his security clearance two months later. Glenn A. Fine, the acting Defense Department Inspector General, has confirmed he is investigating Flynn.
Having already been consulted regarding national security by Fiorina as well as other candidates, including Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump, Flynn was asked in February 2016 to serve as an adviser to the Trump campaign. In July 2016, it was reported he was being considered as Trump's running mate; Flynn later confirmed that he had submitted vetting documents to the campaign and was willing to accept the Republican vice-presidential nomination if chosen. Trump instead selected Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
As one of the keynote speakers during the first night of the 2016 Republican National Convention, Flynn gave what the Los Angeles Times described as a "fiery" speech, in which he stated: "We are tired of Obama's empty speeches and his misguided rhetoric. This, this has caused the world to have no respect for America's word, nor does it fear our might"; he also accused Obama of choosing to conceal the actions of Osama bin Laden and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Flynn went on to criticise political correctness and joined the crowd in a chant of "U-S-A! U-S-A!". During the chants he told those in the audience, "Get fired up! This is about our country." During the speech, Flynn launched a blistering attack on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He led the crowd in chants of "Lock her up!"; during one of those chants, he encouraged the crowd to keep it up, saying, "Damn right! Exactly right! There is nothing wrong with that!" He called for Clinton to withdraw from the race, saying that "if I did a tenth of what she did, I'd be in jail today." He repeated in subsequent interviews that she should be "locked up". While campaigning for Trump, Flynn also referred to Clinton as the "enemy camp". Six days after the speech, Flynn stirred up a controversy by retweeting anti-Semitic remarks, which he later apologized for and claimed were unintentional. During the election campaign, Flynn used Twitter to post links to negative stories about Clinton, including fake news like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Flynn was once opposed to waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques that have now been banned; however, according to an August 2016 Washington Post article, he said at one point, in the context of Trump's apparent openness to reinstating such techniques, that "he would be reluctant to take options off the table." In May 2016, Flynn was asked by an Al Jazeera reporter if he would support Trump's stated plan to "take out [the] families" of people suspected of being involved in terrorism. In response, Flynn stated, "I would have to see the circumstances of that situation." In an interview with Al Jazeera, Flynn criticized the U.S. reliance on drones as a "failed strategy", stating that "what we have is this continued investment in conflict. The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just ... fuels the conflict."
On November 10, 2016, President Obama warned President-elect Trump against hiring Flynn. During their meeting in the Oval Office two days after the election, Obama expressed "profound concerns" about hiring Flynn to a sensitive, high-level national security post.
On November 18, 2016, Flynn accepted Trump's offer for the position of National Security Advisor. Prior to his appointment, media sources including the Washington Post and Associated Press had already criticized his close relations with Russia, and his promotion of anti-Clinton conspiracy theories and fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In December 2016, Flynn met with Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPA), at Trump Tower in New York. The meeting attracted attention because the FPA was founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s, and because Strache had recently signed a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party. The Trump campaign refused to comment on the meeting.
On December 29, 2016, Flynn spoke with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the same day the Obama administration announced retaliatory measures in response to the interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign by the Russian government. The phone conversation was reportedly viewed by Obama advisers who had been briefed on its content by the F.B.I. with suspicion as possibly a secret deal between the incoming team and Moscow, which could have violated the dormant Logan Act that bars unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign powers in disputes with the United States. The day after reporting by David Ignatius, Trump's incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer said the conversation had occurred on December 28 and thus couldn't have touched on the retaliation measures or Russia's response; Spicer later had to correct himself on the date of the conversation.
On January 4, 2017, Flynn informed Don McGahn, soon to become the White House Counsel, that he was under investigation over his work for Turkey. Ten days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, Flynn told then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice not to proceed with a planned invasion of Raqqa using Kurdish People's Protection Units. Flynn's decision would delay the campaign, which had taken seven months to plan, several more months, but was consistent with Turkish objections to working with Kurdish troops.
Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, in May 8 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, said the FBI interviewed Flynn, on January 24, 2017. Based on the results of that interview, she made an "urgent" request to meet with McGahn. She met with him on January 26 and again on January 27. She informed McGahn that Flynn was "compromised" and possibly open to blackmail by the Russians. Yates told McGahn that Flynn had misled Pence and other administration officials about the nature of his conversation with the Russian ambassador. She added that Flynn's "underlying conduct", which she could not describe due to classification, "was problematic in and of itself," saying "(i)t was a whole lot more than one White House official lying to another."
On January 22, 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn was under investigation by U.S. counterintelligence agents for his communications with Russian officials. On February 8, 2017, Flynn flatly denied having spoken to Kislyak in December 2016 about the sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration; however, the next day, U.S. intelligence officials shared an account indicating that such discussions did in fact take place. Following this revelation, Flynn's spokesman released a statement that Flynn "indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up".
On February 13, 2017, Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor, following reporting on his communications with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak and that he misled the Vice President about it. Flynn's 24-day tenure as National Security Advisor was the shortest in the 63-year history of the office.
Commenting on Flynn′s resignation, on February 14 White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated, "We got to a point not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, where a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change ... The issue here was that the President got to the point where General Flynn’s relationship – misleading the Vice President and others, or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and an unsustainable situation. That’s why the President decided to ask for his resignation, and he got it."
That same day (February 14), President Trump met with FBI Director James Comey in the Oval Office and reportedly told him "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go" adding "he's a good guy." Comey subsequently testified that, "I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December ... I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign". The propriety, and even the legality, of these words that Trump reportedly said to Comey about Flynn have become a subject of considerable public debate. Several months after dismissing Flynn, Trump also dismissed Comey, which Comey attributed to the FBI's Russia investigation.
Flynn had offered to testify to the FBI or the Senate and House Intelligence committees relating to the Russia probe in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution. However, the Senate Intelligence Committee rejected Flynn's offer for immunity in exchange for testimony. Flynn initially declined to respond to a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but he and the committee later struck a compromise. The Pentagon inspector general is also investigating whether Flynn accepted money from foreign governments without the required approval.
Flynn is a registered Democrat, having grown up in a "very strong Democratic family". However, he was a keynote speaker during the first night of the 2016 Republican National Convention, and he was a surrogate and top national security adviser for President Donald Trump.
During a July 10, 2016, interview on ABC News' This Week, when asked by host Martha Raddatz about the issue of abortion, Flynn stated, "women have to be able to choose." The next day, Flynn said on Fox News that he is a "pro-life Democrat".
Flynn has been a board member of ACT! for America, and sees the Muslim faith as one of the root causes of Islamist terrorism. He has described Islam as a political ideology and a cancer. He once tweeted that "fear of Muslims is RATIONAL" and included a video link claiming that Islam wants "80% of people enslaved or exterminated". Initially supportive of Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US, Flynn later told Al Jazeera that a blanket ban was unworkable and has called instead for "vetting" of entrants from countries like Syria. Flynn has stated the U.S. "should extradite Fethullah Gülen" to Turkey and "work constructively with Russia" in Syria. In 2016, he said that he had personally seen photos of signs in the Southwest border area that were in Arabic to help Muslims entering the United States illegally. An officer of the National Border Patrol Council responded that he had never seen any signs delineating smuggling routes, let alone any in Arabic.
Flynn co-authored a report in January 2010 through the Center for a New American Security, entitled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. That report, which became influential, argued that U.S. intelligence agencies "must open their doors to anyone who is willing to exchange information, including Afghans and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) as well as the US military and its allies".
Flynn is also an author of The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, co-authored with Michael Ledeen, which was published by St. Martin's Press in 2016. In reviewing the book, Will McCants of the Brookings Institution described Flynn's worldview as a confused combination of neoconservatism (an insistence on destroying what he sees as an alliance of tyranny, dictatorships, and radical Islamist regimes) and realism (support for working with "friendly tyrants"), although he acknowledged that this could be due to the book having two authors.
|Badge||Master Parachutist Badge|
|1st row||Defense Distinguished Service Medal||Defense Superior Service Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters|
|2nd row||Legion of Merit
with one bronze oak leaf cluster
|Bronze Star Medal
with three bronze oak leaf clusters
|Meritorious Service Medal
with one silver oak leaf cluster
|Joint Service Commendation Medal|
|3rd row||Army Commendation Medal
with four bronze oak leaf clusters
|Army Achievement Medal
with one bronze oak leaf cluster
|National Defense Service Medal
with one bronze service star
|Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
with two bronze service stars
|4th row||Afghanistan Campaign Medal||Iraq Campaign Medal
with three bronze service stars
|Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal||Global War on Terrorism Service Medal|
|5th row||Humanitarian Service Medal||Army Service Ribbon||Overseas Service Ribbon||NATO Medal|
|Badge||Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge|
Brainwave is seeking to develop a market for its innovative -– but broadly disputed -- technology called “brain fingerprinting” which tries to assess an interrogation subject’s honesty through a brain scan. Flynn was brought onto the company’s board of advisers to help sell the product to defense and law enforcement agencies, Brainwave President Krishna Ika said in an interview.
|Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
|National Security Advisor
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