Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is in deep trouble.
New revelations – first reported by CNN’s Manu Raju, Jim Sciutto and Tom LoBianco – make clear that the retired general was warned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, way back in 2014, not to accept money from foreign governments as he moved into the private sector. He not only did just that when he spoke to RT-TV, widely considered to be a propaganda arm of Vladimir Putin’s government, but he also allegedly failed to disclose it to the relevant agencies.
(Flynn’s lawyer has insisted in a statement that he did, in fact, let the Defense Intelligence Agency know he was giving the speech and briefed them afterward as well.)
Flynn’s growing problems add to the likelihood that the White House, which fired Flynn after three weeks on the job due to his misrepresentations of conversations he had with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, will seek to totally sever any ties with the retired general.
That won’t be easy – largely because of comments defending Flynn made by Trump over recent months.
“General Flynn is a wonderful man,” Trump said days after he fired his national security adviser. “I think he has been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it is really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”
Right around that same time, Trump told a group of reporters of Flynn: “I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. With all that being said, I think he’s a fine man.”
It’s important to note that these Trump comments came AFTER it became clear that Flynn has misled everyone, up to Vice President Mike Pence, regarding his contacts – and the nature of those contacts – with Kislyak. Even after all of that, Trump called him a “wonderful man” and blamed Flynn’s departure, at least in part, on the “fake media.”
Given that, it’s not going to be easy for Trump or White House press secretary Sean Spicer to suddenly condemn Flynn as a bad guy who kept lots of stuff from the President and his staff. That doesn’t mean the Trump White House won’t try to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Flynn of course, just that it won’t be easy because of what Trump has said in the not-very-distant past.
Why would Trump go out of his way to praise Flynn even after he had been fired and was clearly causing the White House problems as it tried to build momentum for the first 100 days? Simple. Because Flynn was one of Trump’s most loyal backers, going all the way back to the start of the campaign. Flynn met with Trump first in August 2015 at Trump Tower – a meeting scheduled to last 30 minutes that ran 90, according to this terrific New Yorker profile of Flynn.
The two men shared a vision – that the Obama administration had and was continuing to underestimate the threat posed by radical Islamic extremism. Flynn’s outspokenness, not to mention his years of decorated military service, drew Trump to him. By the end of the campaign, Flynn was Trump’s designated emcee at major rallies.
Trump is intensely loyal to people who fight for him and/or he considers friends of value. His decision to defend Bill O’Reilly to The New York Times in the midst of sexual harassment allegations that led to O’Reilly dismissal by Fox News is another example of this unwillingness to cut people loose – even when it is past time to do so.
That loyalty gene mixes with Trump’s natural aversion to caving to public pressure as exerted by the media to make a dangerous cocktail where he says and does things that come back to haunt him.
Flynn is the latest example of this phenomenon. Knowing Trump, he won’t be the last.