The "Flynn as Misunderstood Patriot" Myth, Debunked

Upon further review, the ruling on the field stands: traitor.

LET’S GIVE Michael Flynn the benefit of the doubt. Heck, let’s go one further—let’s frame Mike Flynn as the MAGA do: as misunderstood patriot and staunch defender of the United States of America. Let’s read Eli Lake’s article in Commentary, “The Railroading of Michael Flynn: How It Happened and Why It Matters,” and let’s pretend every word of that masterful piece of “Flynn spin” is true. In short, let’s you and I be Q (#UNIBQ).

The “Flynn as Misunderstood Patriot” narrative goes something like this:

Flynn is an OG American hero of the kind extolled in the films of Clint Eastwood—rugged, individualistic, calm, cool, collected. Because of his unique perspective on geopolitics and foreign affairs, straddling as he did both the military and intelligence side of things, Flynn was able to see things his colleagues, all of them paralyzed by groupthink and partisan politics, missed. He was right, everyone else was wrong, but he carried on anyway, bound by his duty to keep America safe.

As Flynn saw it, ISIS was the gravest threat to the US, not the Chinese or the Russians or transnational organized crime. This band of faux-Islamic anarchists—bound by an interpretation of the Quran as perverse as it was antiquated, with no real territory or assets save an effective social media operation, which spent its time destroying UNESCO historical sites, enslaving women, and beheading alleged infidels—was somehow more dangerous to people here in the States than the global mob and its multi-trillion-dollar underworld economy. Flynn was sure of it.

But Obama didn’t see it that way. It was this difference of opinion on “Radical Islam” that led to Flynn being ignominiously terminated from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. But that didn’t stop Mike Flynn. No, sir. Flynn was so convinced ISIS were the top bad guys, he was willing to work with anyone and everyone to stop them. Sure, Vladimir Putin wasn’t the ideal partner in this fight, being a despot and all, but at least he understood the threat from ISIS. It’s not like there was any love lost between FDR and Josef Stalin, but we had to stop the Nazis, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That dinner with Putin was just part of the master plan to contain Radical Islam, the real enemy. And if Flynn made a few rubles for his troubles, so what? The guy lost his job. How else would he make a living if not dining with dictators? Same deal with Erdogan and the Turks. Turkey is a member of NATO and our ally, essential in the fight against ISIS. Best to be tight with him, too.

And the calls with Kislyak? Not collusion. Nope. Just Mike Flynn, super patriot, making sure America was safe from the ultimate villains—ISIS. He even alludes to this in the transcript! “We definitely have a common enemy. You have a problem with it, we have a problem with it in this country, and we definitely have a problem with it in the Middle East.”

And what does Flynn get for defending the country? The threat of prosecution under the Logan Act, which has been on the books for well over 200 years, but hasn’t been used in an actual indictment since the Millard Fillmore Administration. He tried to help the FBI, who turned on him, and was tricked into pleading guilty to making false statements. All because Flynn was trying to keep you and me safe!

This is a powerful and seductive narrative. It’s easy to understand why it appeals to so many Trump supporters—angry white men of a certain age, mostly. Fans of Clint Eastwood movies. Believers in figures just like this. We have a Dirty Harry-like hero, who skirts the rules for the greater good. We have our Dirty Harry hero being kneecapped by his effete, bookish boss, who happens to be 1) a black man 2) suspected of being of the same religion as the ISIS villains. We have an FBI that really did make mistakes here. We have no charge of collusion brought by Mueller. And we have talented writers like Eli Lake shaping the narrative, with paragraphs like this:

The idea that Flynn had behaved illegally, let alone unethically or immorally or unconventionally, in discussing U.S. foreign policy with the Russians during the transition is beyond absurd. He was the incoming national-security adviser. Phone calls between incoming senior administration officials and foreign governments are common during a presidential transition. And given what is now known about the context of that phone call, the initial spin in the press that Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak had undermined the outgoing administration’s policy was misleading.

In short, the “Flynn As Hero” myth is a much easier sell than, say, HRC running a pedophile ring from the basement of a pizzeria that has no basement, or JFK Jr. being alive.

But. But. But.

Here’s the problem: Mike Flynn wasn’t some rando on Twitter, studying this stuff from afar. He’d worked in intelligence for years. He was in the know, he was in the shit. How could the Director of the freakin’ Defense Intelligence Agency not have been aware that Russia is a mafiya state? That Putin sat atop a hybrid form of government not much seen in the annals of world history, a combination of mob and intelligence services, but with nukes? How could a lieutenant general in the US armed forces not have recognized that as a graver threat, with more resources and vastly greater reach, than ISIS?

And how could such an IC insider possibly have been unaware that Donald John Trump is a money launderer for that same Russian mafiya, fully owned by hostile foreign powers—including his winsome dinner host, Vladimir Putin? How could Flynn, once the head of one of the 17 intelligence agencies that collectively concluded that Russia fucked with the 2016 election, not have known that Putin preferred Trump? How could he go on the campaign trail with this mob-owned criminal? How could he offer his full-throated endorsement? How could he have been unaware that the candidate he promised to “lock up” scared the ever-loving shit out of Putin (as our PREVAIL correspondent Moscow Never Sleeps will explain in an upcoming dispatch), while the one he supported was basically Kremlin property—and an incurious, narcissistic troglodyte besides, with obvious autocratic tendencies?

And how could Mike Flynn, inveterate intelligence guy and presumed defender of the United States, not have agreed, in fucking December of 2016, with the conclusions of those 17 intelligence agencies that Russia fucked with the election? Are we to believe that he didn’t understand how to read those reports?

And if he did agree with the 17 agencies, why the fuck was he playing nice-nice with the multi-chinned ambassador Sergei Kislyak on those calls? Why did the election sabotage not even come up in those discussions? Why was Russian election fuckery disavowed and ignored by Flynn and Trump even after inauguration, when they were actually in charge?

There are only two explanations: Flynn is the worst intelligence analyst in the history of spycraft, completely inept and bumblingly stupid…or, he’s a traitor.

My money’s on the latter.


Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn spoke at last weeks Senior Intelligence Leadership Conference at Alvarado Hall where he stressed the importance of military intelligence and discussed his vision for the years to come, 2012. (Photo Credit: Natalie Lakosil)