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The Tragedy of Michael Flynn: Part One

There exists a man who is seen by the left as a traitorous Russophile who sold out his highest values—honor and country. The right, however, sees him as a man of dignity who is a victim of the excesses of his own government, a political prisoner of sorts. His name is Michael Flynn, and he is a retired lieutenant general who served as former President Barack Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2012-2014) and for three weeks as President Donald Trump’s first national security advisor.

Michael Flynn (NBC News)

There are plenty of public figures who are loved by a portion of the population and loathed by the other segment. A good example would be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom everyone knows as the grim reaper who scythes Democratic legislation. Some love him and some detest him, but there is a common factual basis for both sentiments. However, some people are so controversial that the nation cannot agree on their basic characteristic fundamentals. One of those people is Michael Flynn’s former boss, President Trump, who is seen by millions as a cancerous, demagogic charlatan and by millions more as the knight in shining armor who is saving the United States from collapse.

In Flynn’s case, the polarization of public opinion results from the supposed gulf between his first 58 years on Earth—when he rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army but lived in relative obscurity—and his latter four years as a political lightning rod. The second period of Flynn’s life commenced in 2016, when he emerged as a fervent supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump, a position that automatically earns one the contempt of half of the American population.

Flynn’s time in the spotlight—which reached a crescendo with his July 2016 speech at the Republican National Convention—made him a household name. After his man won the presidency on 8 November 2016, he was crowned as national security advisor-designate. This position is usually the crown jewel that marks a career of distinguished public service, but for Flynn, it was the beginning of something far less enviable: a personalized FBI investigation, dubbed “Crossfire Razor.” The investigation resolved to determine whether Flynn “was directed and controlled by” the Russian government (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017).

The machinations of the investigation were spurred in earnest by a series of 29 December 2016 phone calls between Flynn and Sergei Kislyak—then the Russian ambassador to the U.S.—that were intercepted by routine U.S. surveillance. The day the calls occurred, the Obama administration had “announced sanctions and other measures against Russia in retaliation for its alleged use of cyberattacks to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election,” reports the Wall Street Journal (Lee, Barrett, & Harris, 2017). Among these sanctions, the Guardian notes, was the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats (Gambino, Siddiqui, & Walker, 2016).

The subject of the Obama sanctions was broached by Flynn and Kislyak in their 29 December 2016 communications. According to information provided to the New York Times by “current and former American officials,” “Flynn had never made explicit promises of sanctions relief, but that he had appeared to leave the impression it would be possible.” Flynn urged Kislyak “to keep the Russian government from retaliating over the coming sanctions — it was an open secret in Washington that they were in the works — by telling him that whatever the Obama administration did could be undone” (Rosenberg & Apuzzo, 2017).

Despite his discussions with Kislyak on the subject of sanctions, Flynn told Vice President Mike Pence, various White House officials, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the subject was not mentioned. The FBI’s FD-302—the form that agents use to summarize interviews—notes,

The interviewing agents asked FLYNN if he recalled any conversation with KISLYAK in which the expulsions were discussed, where FLYNN might have encouraged KISLYAK not to escalate the situation, to keep the Russian response reciprocal, or not to engage in a “tit-for-tat.” FLYNN responded, “Not really. I don’t remember. It wasn’t, ‘Don’t do anything.’” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017.)

Long story short, Flynn’s (incorrect) insistence that he had not pushed Kislyak to avoid retaliatory action led to Flynn’s dismissal from the White House and his prosecution by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller secured a guilty plea from Flynn for lying to the FBI on 30 November 2017 (Shear & Goldman, 2017).

POLITICO’s synopsis of Flynn’s plea notes, “Flynn admitted lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and about the Trump transition team’s efforts to influence a United Nations vote condemning Israel. Flynn also admitted to making false statements in filings submitted to a Justice Department office about his work on a Turkey-related advocacy project during the Trump campaign, although that was not a part of the formal criminal charge” (Gerstein, 2020).

In normal times, a guilty plea would mark the end of the DOJ’s involvement with the perpetrator of a crime: Flynn apparently committed a serious offense—lying to the FBI—and formally declared his guilt. However, we are in decidedly abnormal times. In the past two-and-a-half years, Flynn has deposed his initial counsel, tapped a Pitbull of a former federal prosecutor (Sidney Powell) to serve as his new defense attorney, and uncovered key details regarding the FBI’s investigation of his Russia ties, with the help of U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen. This information has given America—and Flynn—a much clearer picture of the FBI’s investigative strategy, and it has led Flynn to renounce his guilty plea.

It is important that we scrutinize the Flynn developments one by one, making sure to assess those that were in the public domain as well as those that were uncovered by Flynn’s counsel. The four questions that will be considered by this analysis are: Was the guilty plea spurious? Was the investigation into Flynn an attempt to manufacture a crime? Did Flynn actually lie to the investigators? Was the investigation into Flynn tainted by political bias?

This is the first part of a six-part series on the investigation and prosecution of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, written by Declan M. Hurley. This segment is entitled "Introducing the Case Against Michael Flynn." Hurley's source list (to which the parenthetical citations correspond) can be found here: