Was Michael Flynn a Russian agent of influence? A modest proposal for how that could have gone down

Reading the ups and downs — and back ups, and down agains — of Michael Flynn, disgraced national security adviser

By Lucian K. Truscott IV
April 29, 2017 4:00PM (UTC)
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Michael Flynn (Getty/Kevin Hagen)

It’s been a bad week for Michael Flynn. It seems that the former national security adviser and Trump campaign official may have lied on his application for a top-secret security clearance back in January 2016, and he apparently neglected to inform Department of the Army officials of his trip to Moscow in 2015, when he was paid to give a speech by RT, Russian Television, something that’s illegal for retired general officers unless they get pre-approval at the Pentagon. So the House Oversight Committee asked the White House for all of its vetting documents on Flynn, and who would have guessed, but the same White House that was able to turn up top secret “intercepts” during a midnight snipe hunt by House Intel Committee chairman Devin Nunes claimed they couldn’t find anything on Flynn. All the vetting stuff on Flynn was filled out “during the Obama administration,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed on Wednesday, and “those are not documents that the White House would ever possess.”

So it was Obama who’s to blame for Flynn! Of course! Meanwhile, enough of a stink was made over Flynn on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon finally peered into a few E-Ring closets, and they found an inspector general investigation of Flynn hiding in one of them!


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But let’s face it, these are at best technical violations of regulations, and if all these committees and inspector generals are ever able to hang anything around Flynn’s neck, it’s not going to be a noose. Besides, they are looking for the wrong man, and they’re looking in the wrong place. Where should they be looking, you might ask, and who’s the guy they should be looking for? Well, they could start in Iraq back in 2006, only three years after the invasion.

Flynn was at that time the chief intelligence officer for the JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, under its commander, General Stanley A. McChrystal. After spending a couple of years denying that there was anything even resembling an “insurgency” in Iraq, the military had finally concluded there was, and the JSOC was tasked with hunting down its leaders, chief among them Abu Musab Zarqawi, head of Al Qaeda in Iraq. In order to understand how Flynn the special ops operator became Flynn the national security adviser, you’ve got to understand that these two guys, Flynn and McChrystal, were military rock stars. They didn’t do boring shit like hang around the Green Zone in Baghdad; they were out there in the boonies running the guys who crept around on their hands and knees in the middle of the night with black shit all over their faces looking for Big-time Terrorists like Zarqawi.


Flynn’s job was to question the Al Qaeda prisoners they captured, which he did in a special facility at Joint Base Balad, on a former Saddam air force base north of Baghdad. There were allegations at the time that “enhanced interrogation methods” were used at the JSOC intelligence facility at Balad, but whatever they did, they located Zarqawi at an Al Qaeda safe house in Baqubah and killed him with a couple of 500-pound bombs dropped by Air Force F-16s.

Later in his career, in 2009, when President Obama turned over command of forces in Afghanistan to McChrystal, the two rock stars hooked up, and once again Flynn was McChrystal’s intelligence chief. By now, they were both general officers who flew around on Blackhawk helicopters, had a fleet of C-130s and C-17s at their beck and call, and if they woke up in the morning and moved a pin on a map, shit happened. Guys in black war paint went out carrying M-4s and grenades and high-tech Fighting Knives and enemies died. It’s hard to overstate how much power a general officer had in Iraq or Afghanistan back then. If they wanted to move a battalion or a brigade from Kandahar up to Kunar province to interdict some Taliban supply lines . . . well, they just did it! Helicopter blades began to spin! C-130s taxied down runways! Platoons and companies of heavily armed infantry soldiers started filling Hesco barriers and built FOBs — forward operating bases — in the mountains and presto! They started blowing the shit out of Taliban fighters!

The problem, of course, was that both men as general officers “served at the pleasure of the president,” and in 2010, the president wasn’t very pleased when Rolling Stone reported that McChrystal wasn’t very impressed by Obama, and he was fired. In a recent interview, Flynn told a reporter from Politico that was “when I first began to think that the White House actually looks down on the military. I believe that to this day.” And right there’s the rub. Any general worth his salt finally comes to the realization that he’s just a chess piece being pushed around the board by assholes back in Washington. All that power they had yesterday, all those Blackhawks they flew around on, all those Talibans they were knocking off, it was over for McChrystal. “It’s fair to say that McChrystal’s firing did leave a bad taste in my mouth,” Flynn told Politico.


But he apparently was in possession of enough Listerine that only two years later he was hired by the same president who fired his friend McChrystal to be director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a massive bureaucracy with 17,000 employees located along the Potomac River at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling on 905 acres in Southwest Washington, D.C. Finally! General Flynn, now with three stars on his shoulders, would be one of the assholes back in Washington pushing pieces around the chessboard, and he had one a hell of a lot of pieces to push!

Flynn’s tenure at the DIA was either brutally brief or mercifully attenuated, depending on your outlook. Putting on a suit instead of a uniform every day didn’t mean Flynn hadn’t brought the battlefield to the DIA with him. He had. Obsessed with “radical Islamic terrorism” from his days chasing Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Flynn wasted no time losing friends and making enemies at his new job. Flynn was fond of conspiracy theories and attracted to gathering intelligence on right-wing websites, and it didn’t take long for DIA employees to coin the term “Flynn facts” to describe the insane rabbit holes he soon had his 17,000 employees running down. Word leaked out of the DIA about “Flynn facts” and soon he was bringing them up at meetings with his fellow intelligence chiefs, John O. Brennan of the CIA and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper. It didn’t take long for these two Washington insiders to let the White House know they weren’t happy with Flynn, and his days of pushing pieces around the chessboard were soon over. Fired by Obama in 2014, Flynn retired from the Army and entered civilian life warning that the United States was less safe from “radical Islamic terrorism” then than it was in 2001 when the World Trade Center was brought down by Al Qaeda, killing more than 3,000.


It’s part of the magic of our modern media age that failed generals like Flynn, who despite all of the Al Qaedas and Talibans they killed managed to lose not one but two wars, are quickly scooped up by businesses friendly to their worldview, no matter how loony it is, and in the case of Fox News, especially because of how loony Flynn is, most especially because of his avowed hatred of all things Obama and Hillary.

Meanwhile, over in Moscow, the director of the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service, was doing what intelligence directors all over the world are wont to do. He was pushing his own chess pieces around the board and looking for chess pieces of rival intelligence services that had toppled over, and in 2015 as he scanned the offerings of Fox News and perused stories about who was up and who was down in the nascent American presidential race, he noticed Michael Flynn, former director of the American DIA and one pissed-off SOB when it came to how he had been treated by the establishment over there in Washington, D.C.

You see, this is what intelligence services do. They troll the other side looking for weakness. Usually they spot it in figures in enemy business, political, intelligence or even military circles who might have just gone through a bad divorce, or suffered a business setback, or endured a political humiliation, or even experienced the death of a child or loved one. Flynn filled a couple of bills. He had been humiliated by his firing at the DIA by a president he clearly loathed, and he was obviously a very ambitious man who was at loose ends professionally. So what did the Russians do? Well, they invited Flynn to appear on Russian Television as an “expert analyst,” and having hooked him, they reeled him in with an invitation to fly over to Moscow on their dime and give a speech and attend a gala dinner in honor of the RT network’s tenth anniversary. What did Flynn do? He flew over there, and he sat at the Big Table with Vladimir Putin, and he got up and gave his speech and he told them they’ve got to get Iran to lay off the bullshit it was pulling in Syria and all over the Middle East! He went over there and pushed some pieces around the chessboard, that’s what Flynn did! He was back in the game!


Back home, his stock goes up, and he finds himself on the speed dials of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and of course, Donald Trump, the Band of Clowns running in the Republican primaries, so Flynn cruises around talking Big Time World Affairs and “radical Islamic terrorism” and who does he find is right down his alley but Donald Trump. And get this. Trump knows a bunch of Russians, and he’s got these guys like Carter Page and Paul Manafort on his campaign who know some of the same Russians Flynn does, and all of a sudden Flynn’s flying around on Trump’s private jet from one big rally to another whispering in the candidate’s ear and giving him big-time World Affairs advice, and before you know it, Flynn is attending the special intelligence briefings Trump is given by the same assholes in the CIA and the office of director of national intelligence who got him fired only a couple of years ago! How the worm has turned, huh?

And the next thing you know, Trump wins on November 8, and on November 9 he names Flynn his pick as national security adviser, and he’s up there in Trump Tower fielding calls from world leaders and advising on the Transition and of course he’s talking on the phone to his good friend Sergey Number One, Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, who he’s been meeting with and talking to on the phone since way last summer before the Republican National Convention, and old Kislyak is setting up meetings with Flynn and Jared Kushner and his pal from the Russian state-owned VEB bank Sergey Number Two, Sergey Nikolaevich Gorkov, and before you know it, he’s down in the Dominican Republic on the beach taking it easy after Christmas, and he’s talking with Sergey Number One about relaxing sanctions on Russia imposed after Putin did his little two-step taking territory in the Ukraine and all of Crimea. And then January 20 comes along, and Flynn’s right there in the White House bossing around underlings and moving chess pieces around the Big Board and what’s the first thing he does? Why, he makes a surprise appearance in the White House press room and “puts Iran on notice,” that’s what he does! Just like he did in his big speech in Moscow! The guy who only a few years before was sitting in some hellhole in Balad interrogating Al Qaedas and sending out camouflaged operatives to kill at night is right where he wants to be. He’s one of the assholes back in Washington pushing pieces around the chessboard!

And who’s just happy as hell about the rise of Michael Flynn, failed special operations general, fired director of the DIA, former Fox News commentator and RT television analyst? Why, the head of the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, the guy who spied Flynn when he was wandering around in the wilderness pissed off at the world.


As we know, Flynn lasted only 24 days before being pushed from his perch as national security adviser in the White House, but what the hell, they gave it a good try, didn’t they? They ran a retired three-star general as an agent of influence right into the innermost reaches of the White House. They’ve had worse days, the FSB has, I’ll tell you that much. And what I’ll also tell you is that we haven’t carried off an intelligence coup like that in decades, maybe never. Not even when Michael Flynn was running the DIA did we get anybody inside the Kremlin in a position as powerful as Flynn held in the White House.

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives on the East End of Long Island and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. He can be followed on Facebook at The Rabbit Hole and on Twitter @LucianKTruscott.

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