Timeline of the Mike Flynn Controversy

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: National Security Adviser Mike Flynn listens to President Tru
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

Here’s the timeline of events that led to the Feb. 13 resignation of President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who is an outspoken opponent of former President Barack Obama’s policies towards Islam, Iran, and Russia. 

July 2012: Lt.  Gen. Mike Flynn appointed to run the huge Defense Intelligence Agency, which handles intelligence related to military weaponry and battlefield enemies.

Aug. 7, 2014: Flynn is forced to retire from the DIA. His opponents in the intelligence agencies say he was pushed out for management errors, including obstinacy. Flynn told a journalist he was forced out because he opposed President Barack Obama’s hesitant policy in the Syrian civil war, which allowed the growth of the Islamic State and other radical groups to flourish.

April 2, 2015: President Brack Obama announced a diplomatic deal with Iran, providing it with $150 billion in funds and legally authorizing it to build a nuclear weapons force after 2030. 

Dec. 3, 2015: Obama responds to the San Bernardino massacre by two Muslims, by denying any role for Islam in the attackers’ motivation. “We don’t know why they did it,” he said. “We don’t know, at this point, the extent of their plans, we do not know their motivations.” Throughout his eight years in office, he denounced criticism of Islam and argued that Islam is a religion of peace. “For more than 1,000 years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace. And the very word itself Islam comes from salam, peace,” he declared incorrectly in February 2016

Dec. 10, 2015: Flynn gives a paid speech at a conference in Moscow. “I wanted to tell Russia to get Iran the hell out of the four proxy wars they’re involved in the Middle East, in order for us to settle the situation down,” Flynn told a reporter in July 2016.

February 2016: Flynn joins Donald Trump’s campaign as an advisor.

July 1, 2016: Flynn publishes his views in a book titled “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win The Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.”  The book identifies the main enemy to Islam’s ideological encouragement of supremacism, violence, and expansionism, describes Iran as a ‘linchpin” of a loose anti-American alliance of Russia, Islam, China, and North Korea, and calls for a diplomatic effort to flip Russia against Iran and radical Islam. When dealing with Islamic militants, he writes, ”[w]e’ve got to stop feeling the slightest bit guilty about calling them by name and identifying them as fanatical killers acting on behalf of a failed civilization.”

July 18, 2016: Flynn gives a rousing speech at the GOP convention.

July 22, 2016: Wikileaks releases emails from the Democratic National Committee. In October, the group starts releasing emails from John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 

Aug. 23, 2016: Flynn speaks to voters, saying ”We are facing another ‘ism,’ just like we faced Nazism, and fascism, and imperialism and communism,” Flynn said. “Islam is a political ideology … it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised.”

Nov. 8, 2016: Donald Trump wins the 2016 election, defeating the Democratic political machine and its myriad dependents, and their policy of appeasement towards Islam and hostility towards Russia. He also defeats the establishment GOP, including many GOP officials and professionals who favor an assertive foreign policy against Russia.

Nov. 18, 2016: President-elect Donald Trump announces Flynn will serve as his National Security Advisor, prompting much criticism from Obama’s left-wing and Islamic allies. 

Nov. 20, 2016: Obama’s political allies slam Flynn’s appointment, via Politico, which wrote: 

Welcome back, approximately, to the world just after 9/11, when terror hung in the air, fear was raw and palpable and Islamophobia was so rampant … [Flynn] argues that America is not confronting the radical Islamists alone, but that they are in alliance with anti-American nation states like Russia, Cuba and North Korea. Despite Trump’s fairly positive statements about Vladimir Putin, such a controversial approach could once again isolate the United States, as occurred during the Iraq war when George W. Bush targeted what he called the “Axis of Evil.”

Dec. 5, 2016: A group of left-wing, pro-Iran and pro-Muslim groups sharply protested Flynn’s role in the Trump administration, saying:

General Flynn has repeatedly made Islamophobic statements and peddled anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. He has written that “fear of Muslims is rational” and said that “Islam is a political ideology” and “a cancer” that “hides behind being a religion,” and continuously peddles the nonsensical fear of “Shariah law” spreading in the United States … General Flynn’s repugnant statements show a lack of respect for the rights and dignity of Muslims and make him unfit for this post…

General Flynn’s appointment as National Security Advisor is a frightening prospect for anyone who values America’s national security and ability to promote stability and prosperity around the globe. We call on you to rescind it immediately.

Dec. 29, 2016: Flynn spoke with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. The conversation took place the same day that outgoing President Barack Obama imposed a series of symbolic sanctions — including the expulsion of 35 Russian officials and their families — against Russia for suspected hacking of Democrats’ emails during the 2016 election. The conversation was recorded by U.S. intelligence agencies, who are normally barred from recording or release Americans’ conversations, unless they’ve got written approval from a special court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The existence of recorded conversations, and of the words spoken during the conversation,  are barred from public release by classification rules and also by personal privacy laws. 

Dec. 30, 2017: Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin dials down the clash by not expelling any U.S. officials. “It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner … I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family,” Putin said.

Jan. 12, 2017: The existence of the protected phone call is leaked to David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist with good sources in the intelligence agencies. The article portrayed Flynn as secretly undermining Obama’s anti-Russian sanctions, saying:

“… until he’s president, Trump needs to let Obama manage U.S.-Russia policy.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts. He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jan. 13, 2017: Ignatius posts an update to his column, saying;

… two team members called with information Friday morning. A first Trump official confirmed that Flynn had spoken with Kislyak by phone, but said the calls were before sanctions were announced and didn’t cover that topic. This official later added that Flynn’s initial call was to express condolences to Kislyak after the terrorist killing of the Russian ambassador to Ankara Dec. 19, and that Flynn made a second call Dec. 28 to express condolences for the shoot-down of a Russian plane carrying a choir to Syria. In that second call, Flynn also discussed plans for a Trump-Putin conversation sometime after the inauguration. In addition, a second Trump official said the Dec. 28 call included an invitation from Kislyak for a Trump administration official to visit Kazakhstan for a conference in late January.

Jan. 15, 2017: Vice President Mike Pence told CBS’s Sunday show, “Face the Nation” that the Flynn conversation with Kislyak was routine. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia … what I can confirm having spoken to him about it is those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions,” he said.

Jan. 19, 2017: Obama’s top intelligence and law-enforcement deputies meet to talk about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak, according to a Feb 13 article in the Washington Post.

“The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said….

In the waning days of the Obama administration, James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence, and John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, shared [Acting Attorney General Sally] Yates’s concerns and concurred with her recommendation to inform the Trump White House. They feared that “Flynn had put himself in a compromising position” and thought that Pence had a right to know that he had been misled, according to one of the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters…

Jan. 20, 2017: Donald Trump inaugurated as President.

Jan. 23: Yates stepped up pressure on FBI Director Comey when White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said sanctions were not discussed in the Flynn-Kislyak call, according to the Washington Post.

A turning point came after Jan. 23, when Spicer, in his first official media briefing, again was asked about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Spicer said that he had talked to Flynn about the issue “again last night.” There was just “one call,” Spicer said. And it covered four subjects: a plane crash that claimed the lives of a Russian military choir; Christmas greetings; Russian-led talks over the Syrian civil war; and the logistics of setting up a call between Putin and Trump. Spicer said that was the extent of the conversation.

Yates again raised the issue with Comey, who now backed away from his opposition to informing the White House. Yates and the senior career national security official spoke to [Donald] McGahn, the White House counsel, who didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment.

Feb. 9, 2017: Nine unnamed officials told the Washington Post that the protected, classified wiretaps showed Flynn had discussed the Obama sanctions with Kislyak.

Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

All of those officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president…

A third official put it more bluntly, saying that either Flynn had misled Pence or that Pence misspoke. An administration official stressed that Pence made his comments based on his conversation with Flynn. The sanctions in question have so far remained in place…

The Washington Post article also said that Obama’s deputies were surprised by Russia’s mild response on Dec. 30 to his post-election sanctions, and speculated that Flynn promised to roll back the sanctions after the inauguration.

Putin’s muted response — which took White House officials by surprise — raised some officials’ suspicions that Moscow may have been promised a reprieve, and triggered a search by U.S. spy agencies for clues.

“Something happened in those 24 hours” between Obama’s announcement and Putin’s response, a former senior U.S. official said. Officials began poring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications and diplomatic cables, and saw evidence that Flynn and Kislyak had communicated by text and telephone around the time of the announcement.

Feb. 13, 2017: Flynn resigns after White House officials issue conflicting statements about his future. According to his resignation letter:

In the course of my duties as the incoming National Security Advisor, I held numerous phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers, and ambassadors. These calls were to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships between the President, his advisors and foreign leaders. Such calls are standard practice in any transition of this magnitude.

Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.

Read the full letter here.

Feb. 14, 2017: The New York Times reports that officials are leaking more information about claimed contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials … 

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation [between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials].

But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

… The F.B.I. investigation is proceeding at the same time that separate investigations into Russian interference in the election are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. Those investigations, by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, are examining not only the Russian hacking but also any contacts that Mr. Trump’s team had with Russian officials during the campaign.

Feb. 14, 2017: Foreign-policy hawk Bill Kristol Tweeted out his preference for a political victory by “the deep state” of established government officials against the nation’s laws and against Trump’s voters and policies.

 Feb. 15, 2017: A former intelligence officer, now a journalist, Tweets about escalating hostility in the “Intelligence Community” to Trump’s actions.


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