WASHINGTON — Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador last year, is the first person inside the White House to be charged in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation. Here’s a look at his long career:
Prominent Military Career:
A Rhode Island native, Flynn comes from a tightknit military family, serving 33 years before retiring in August 2014 as a lieutenant general. He earned acclaim in military circles for his service in Afghanistan, where he ran military intelligence operations. In July 2012 the Obama administration made him director of the Army’s spy organization, the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn was forced out of that job just two years later after Obama administration officials took issue with his management style and temper. After leaving the military, Flynn went on to consulting work, sometimes on behalf of foreign interests. In 2015, he traveled to the Mideast to lend credibility to a proposal for a U.S.-Russia private nuclear partnership that has yet to work out. He also took payments from several foreign firms that have come back to haunt him.
Vocal Campaign Supporter:
The 57-year-old Flynn was one of the most prominent military veterans to endorse Trump’s campaign, lending credibility at a time that many former national security officials publicly denounced Trump’s candidacy and foreign policy positions. He delivered a fiery speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention and encouraged Trump supporters along the campaign trails to chant “lock her up,” a reference to the FBI’s investigation into rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. “If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today,” Flynn said at the Republican convention. Flynn was deeply involved in the Trump transition effort after the November election and was appointed national security adviser.
Short Lived White House Job:
Flynn’s tenure in the White House didn’t last long: He was fired after just 24 days after it was revealed he’d misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the then-Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Flynn was interviewed by FBI agents in Washington, D.C., on January 25 about those conversations. Administration officials said publicly that Flynn had not discussed sanctions that had been imposed on Russia in part over election meddling in that call. But days later, then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had been compromised because of discrepancies between the White House public narrative — that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions — and the reality of what occurred. In the court papers filed Friday, Mueller’s prosecutors say Flynn lied about those conversations in his interview with the FBI.
Undisclosed Lobbying Work:
After Flynn’s brief stint in the White House, the Associated Press and others began to reveal details of Flynn’s past lobbying work on behalf of foreign entities — and whether he properly disclosed those efforts to the Department of Justice. In the weeks after he was fired, Flynn registered retroactively pursuant to foreign lobbying laws and disclosed $530,000 worth of lobbying for a Turkish businessman. He also revealed details of a contract his consulting group, the Flynn Intel Group, engaged in to get information to support a criminal case against a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania. The current Turkish president has called for the cleric’s extradition, a request the U.S. has so far rebuffed. The FBI had been pursuing those and other acts. Congressional committees investigating Flynn said earlier this year he’d also been paid more than $37,000 by RT, the Russian state-sponsored TV station to attend a Moscow gala in 2015 in which Flynn was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Value to Mueller:
Flynn is the first former national security adviser to be charged with a felony since the fallout from the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s. In agreeing to plead guilty, he may provide Mueller’s investigators with insight into what, if any, effort was made to direct his own conversations with Russian officials and other foreign governments during the transitions. In court papers, Mueller disclosed that a senior member of the Trump transition team instructed Flynn to discuss its response to U.S. sanctions with the Russians. That conversation, and Flynn’s accounting of it to the FBI, are at the center of the charges filed Friday. Court papers show that Flynn has agreed to aid Mueller in whatever capacity he needs, including swearing to affidavits, taking polygraph exams and conducting covert operations.