Pardon Me: Michael Flynn’s Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card Lands Face Up

The legal saga is over. Next stop, Trump TV?

“Lock her up! Lock her up!”

The crowd said their prayer, their mantra at the Republican National Convention in 2016, and Lt. General Michael Flynn (Ret.) went right along with them from the podium. Even Trump has never gone quite that far.

“Lock her up. That’s right… I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race,” Flynn told the crowd. “If I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

O Sweet Gods of Irony, thank you.

Flynn won’t be going to jail now that the president has pardoned him for lying to the FBI. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family. I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”

The pardon marks the end of a three-year legal battle. In 2017, Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI. He’s been trying for the past year to withdraw his guilty plea in the case, which involved him giving false claims about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. during the Obama-Trump transition. Since then, Flynn has dug in his Army boots and insisted he’s innocent of the crime to which he admitted guilt. He’s tried to withdraw the plea. The Justice Department, in a widely condemned move, tried to get the guilty plea kicked out of court but met resistance from a still independent judiciary. Now, amidst the strangest transition ever, Flynn’s legal drama comes full circle. Trump adds another ally to his list of Friends with Pardons.

Amazingly, Flynn was briefly considered to be Trump”s running mate in 2016 but being pro-choice–a position he abandoned with gymnastic elasticity–made him unacceptable. He was a crank, a coot from the beginning. To his credit, Chris Christie, when he ran the transition, urged Trump not to hire Flynn. But, hey, Christie got dumped as head of the transition. Michael Flynn became national security adviser, the same job once held by Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, McGeorge Bundy, and Brent Scowcroft. Flynn lasted 22 days before he was forced out after it emerged that he lied to Mike Pence and others about his call with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, a call where he seemed to promise that all those bad Obama sanctions on Russia would go away.

Lying to the FBI made it a crime. And when the call, the lies, and the rest of it went public, Flynn was doomed. Remember this is what Sally Yates, the acting attorney general and maybe the next one, called Don McGahn about after the intel of the call was digested.

We still can’t be entirely sure why Flynn pled guilty and then changed his mind, fighting it out in court, waiting for DOJ intervention, and then getting a pardon in Trump’s final days. Why didn’t Trump go straight to the pardon? Why plead guilty in the first place? Why was Trump asking Comey to go easy on Flynn during their infamous White House dinner? And why didn’t Flynn, a veteran intel officer, assume the call was being recorded in the first place? Did he think the intel community would overlook it?

So many questions, then and now: Why is Flynn spouting QAnon nonsense? Is he all in or just seeking allies. Sidney Powell, the F. Lee Bailey of this cult, is Flynn’s lawyer.

The most fevered speculation about Flynn that he was a Russian asset was never proven. However, that RT dinner with Putin remains one of the weirdest images of the previous decade. But is it any weirder than being a consultant to Turkey during the entire campaign and into the transition in 2016, helping the Erdogan government try to extradite a dissident clergyman living in exile in Pennsylvania?

It’s hard to believe that Flynn was once a storied intelligence official who rose to become Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency before his forced retirement in 2014, hence the Obama-Clinton hatred. I asked a senior Obama national security official during the transition in 2016: “Please tell me Flynn isn’t as bad as they say.”

“He’s worse,” the official told me.

Now he’s free, out of dough from legal expenses, but ready for his closeup on Trump TV.

 

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Matthew Cooper

Matthew Cooper is Executive Editor Digital at the Washington Monthly. He is also contributing editor of the magazine and a veteran reporter having covered politics and the White House for Time, The New Republic, Washingtonian, National Journal and many other publications.