Michael Flynn had a decorated military career. He served in the United States Army for 33 years, was steadily promoted, and received numerous awards and honors. During his time in the military, he worked with operations in Grenada, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In 2011, he was promoted to Lieutenant General. In 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Flynn to be director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). But by 2014, Flynn had retired from the military. Reports later revealed that he was forced to retire because of his chaotic management style and the direction he wanted to take the DIA. He often clashed with both superiors and subordinates.
After retirement, Flynn became more outspoken about what he saw as the danger of “radical Islam.” In one interview, he stated, “I’ve been at war with Islam, or a component of Islam, for the last decade.” He was publicly critical of the Obama administration’s handling of Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, explaining, “I just see us going in the wrong direction, and that’s really why I sort of jumped into the middle of the fray.” Flynn was polarizing to many who worked with him. Some praised him as a visionary and others just the opposite. Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst, said, “[Flynn’s] broad brush of how he views intelligence and analysis actually scares me.”
Flynn became a more polarizing figure when he announced his support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016, despite being a registered Democrat. Flynn saw Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. as part of a larger strategy against a common enemy. He stated, “Here’s what a guy like Donald Trump is doing,” adding, “He’s basically saying, ‘Hey, look, all options are on the table,’ and being very unpredictable in the face of a very determined enemy.” When Flynn spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, he criticized Obama for his administration’s handling of conflicts in the Middle East. He also denounced Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and led the crowd in chants of “Lock her up!” He added to the crowd, “And you know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because, if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth—a tenth—of what she did, I would be in jail today.”
In 2017, Flynn resigned from his position as national security advisor, a position he served in for less than one month under newly inaugurated President Trump. Flynn was in a legal predicament. He pled guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Because of Kislyak’s position as a Russian ambassador in Washington, D.C., Kislyak’s communications were regularly monitored by the FBI. These communications included conversations with Flynn. Despite Flynn’s earlier denials, the FBI’s evidence revealed that Flynn spoke with Kislyak several times on December 29, 2016. Their conversations were about sanctions imposed on Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government tried to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Flynn told Kislyak to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions” and suggested that the sanctions could be lessened after Trump took office.
Flynn also misled others about the nature of these and other calls with Kislyak. In an interview with Fox News, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said he spoke with Flynn about the calls. Pence said that Flynn assured him “the conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to the new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of diplomats.”
In his resignation letter, Flynn wrote, “I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way.” He continued, “I am also honored to have served President Trump, who in just three weeks, has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.”