The Rise And Fall Of Michael Flynn The former general was known as a talented officer in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in Washington, he was dogged by a strange and contradictory relationship with Russia.

The Rise And Fall Of Michael Flynn

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Michael Flynn, President Trump's first national security adviser, resigned amid questions about his contacts with Russia before taking office. Now he's cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigation. Prosecutors are recommending that Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, should not go to prison. NPR's Greg Myre has this look at Flynn's rise and fall.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Michael Flynn was a scrappy kid, one of nine siblings in an Irish Catholic family. He went to the University of Rhode Island on an ROTC scholarship and made a name for himself during three decades in the Army, rising to lieutenant general. As an intelligence officer, he had a real talent for tracking down extremists in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That led, in 2012, to the high point of his military career.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ladies and gentlemen, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn.


MYRE: Previous assignments emphasized Flynn's skills as a can-do officer in the field. As director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he had to be more of a manager and a strategic thinker. Here he is testifying to Congress.


MICHAEL FLYNN: The demands on the United States intelligence system have skyrocketed in recent years, and these demands are only expected to increase.

MYRE: His tenure was troubled. Flynn clashed with President Barack Obama's White House about how the U.S. was waging its wars. A hacked email written by Colin Powell, a former general and secretary of state, said Flynn was abusive to the staff and a poor manager. After just two years, Flynn was ousted and retired from the Army. He set up a private consulting firm and represented a number of foreign clients, including some with controversial ties to Turkey, which he didn't disclose. But above all, Flynn had a strange and contradictory relationship with Russia.


FLYNN: And when we think about countries like Russia, countries like Cuba, countries like Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, in many cases, these are criminal enterprises that have dictatorships and certainly tyrants.

MYRE: That's Flynn speaking to NPR in August 2016. Yet only months earlier, Flynn was wearing a tux at a high-profile dinner in Moscow where he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. So what did Flynn really think of Putin?


FLYNN: There is no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us - quite the contrary, in fact.

MYRE: That's Flynn speaking in the summer of 2016 in the audio version of his book, "The Field Of Fight." At the very same time, Flynn was a top adviser to candidate Donald Trump, who kept raising the possibility of improved relations with Russia. Flynn began to soften his harsh take on Russia, suggesting the two countries could work together. His most memorable campaign moment came when he spoke about Hillary Clinton.


FLYNN: We do not need a reckless president who believes she is above the law.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Lock her up. Lock her up.

FLYNN: Lock her up. That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Lock her up. Lock her up.

FLYNN: Yeah, that's right. Lock her up.

MYRE: As Obama was about to leave office, he reportedly warned Trump not to make Flynn the national security adviser. But Trump did so, and problems began before the new president was in the Oval Office. Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in December 2016 and then lied about it to the FBI. He resigned after less than a month on the job and pleaded guilty to lying a year ago. Trump says Flynn has been treated unfairly.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life.

MYRE: Flynn has been out of the headlines for the past year, but the documents released Tuesday say he's spoken with Robert Mueller's investigative team 19 times. Prosecutors cite that cooperation and Flynn's military career as reasons the judge should show leniency. Greg Myre, NPR News, Washington.

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