Why Aren't Insurrectionists Michael Flynn And Roger Stone In Prison-- OrEven On Trial?
Writing for The Atlantic today, Barton Gellman asked What Happened To Michael Flynn?, as though Flynn was ever a sane, normal person. Gellman began with a transcript of Flynn’s (non-)testimony in front of the select committee investigating the J-6 coup attempt in which Flynn was a participant. Instead of putting him in front of a wall and having a military firing squad shoot him, they asked him, among other questions, if he thought violence was justified on Jan. 6, either legally or morally, and if he believed in the peaceful transition of power in the U.S. He took the 5th on all these questions.
“It was a surreal moment,” wrote Gellman. “Here was a retired three-star general and former national security adviser refusing to opine on the foundational requirement of a constitutional democracy. Flynn had sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Rule of law had been drilled into him for decades in the Army. Now, by invoking the right against self-incrimination, he was asserting that his beliefs about lawful succession could expose him to criminal charges… Flynn had said publicly that President Donald Trump could declare martial law and ‘re-run’ the presidential election he had lost. He and Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers, had turned up in the Oval Office on December 18, 2020, with a draft executive order instructing the Defense Department to seize the voting machines that recorded Trump’s defeat. Flynn and Roger Stone, the self-described political dirty trickster, were the two men Trump made a point of asking his chief of staff to call on January 5, on the eve of insurrection, according to Cassidy Hutchinson’s recent testimony before the January 6 committee.”
Gellman started asking around if Flynn had always been like that or if something impelled a change since being fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. “Has Flynn always been susceptible to paranoid conspiracies? Or did something happen along the way that fundamentally shifted his relationship to reality?” Years ago, when Gellman first interviewed him, he seemed sane with an affect that was thoughtful, buttoned-down, appropriate.
Flynn is not terribly intelligent, a QAnon true believer and is extremely ignorant of the historical incidents he uses in his schpiels to suck contributions out of the Trumpist suckers. Gellman notes that he may be authentically but with an authenticity detached from reality. Listening to him speaking at a “Great Reawakening” shit-show in Canton, Ohio recently, Gellman came away with 2 overarching themes being pushed by the speakers (who also included Eric Trump, Roger Stone and the My Pillow Guy:
1- that forces loyal to Satan are stealing political power in rigged elections on behalf of a global conspiracy masterminded by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, and Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli public intellectual
2- that the cabal has fabricated the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to mandate dangerous vaccines, which make people sick and may secretly turn them into “transhumans” under the conspiracy’s remote control.
Flynn, he wrote, “looked high on his own supply.”
People who worked with Flynn in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of whom declined to speak on the record out of respect for old friendships, said Flynn showed no sign in those years of extreme or fantastical views. One of his colleagues in Afghanistan was a young Marine captain named Matt Pottinger, who would go on to become deputy national security adviser under Trump. “When we were in Afghanistan,” Pottinger told me, “I didn’t hear wacky conspiracies.”
Still, with Pottinger’s help, Flynn cultivated a reputation as an iconoclast. He was best known in Afghanistan for a controversial white paper that he published in January 2010, a sharp critique of the U.S. government’s intelligence operations in Afghanistan by the man ostensibly in charge of them. Flynn was listed as the first and senior author, and it burnished his reputation as a defense intellectual, though in fact, Pottinger told me, he himself “wrote most of the paper,” and “Flynn provided guidance and edits.”
…Flynn spent his career in a fixed universe of black and white, right and wrong. His expertise was in connecting the dots and drawing inferences. But somewhere along the way, his dot detector began spinning out of control.
…Flynn’s dissolution in recent years is a subject of considerable chagrin and embarrassment to his old brothers in arms. It is a forbidden subject for many of them, and an awkward one for others.
McChrystal, his longtime mentor and commander, is said by friends to have watched in horror as Flynn chanted “Lock her up!” at the Republican convention in 2016. He declined to be interviewed for this story. “Out of the respect for our service together, and years of closer friendship, I’m now just going to stay silent,” he told me by email. Retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, once Flynn’s commander and later his White House colleague, wrote, “I have known Mike Flynn for many years going back to our days as Paratroopers in the 82d Airborne Division. As such, he remains a friend and [I] prefer to not talk about him.” My inquiries prompted many replies like those.
Former close associates of Flynn who did respond to my queries proposed varying explanations for Flynn’s behavior in recent years. The high-ranking officer said his extremism and conspiratorial bent may have been in him all along, but tamped down.
“The uniform constrains people’s political and emotional qualities,” he said. “You can misjudge a person because they are constrained by the job and the uniform.” When he takes off the uniform, “the personality that may have been constrained comes out.”
“Keep in mind, his reputation was built essentially as staff officer who’s got, you know, a really smart commander,” another top-ranking officer said. “You had Stan McChrystal, you know, holding both arms and keeping him focused.”
Clapper thinks it was Flynn’s humiliation at the DIA that started him down the wrong road. “Getting terminated a year early ate at him,” Clapper told me. “He had a grievance. And it just, it was corrosive with him, and he became a bitter, angry man and just latched on to anybody who was opposed to Obama and the Obama administration. That’s my armchair analysis of what happened.”
The humiliation of his subsequent firing as national security adviser and prosecution for lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States (he pleaded guilty, then tried to withdraw his plea, and then was pardoned by Trump) only amplified his feelings of persecution, by this hypothesis.
But Clapper has another theory too.
“He spent a lot of time deployed, maybe too much, as it turns out,” Clapper said. “He spent a lot of time in Iraq and Afghanistan chasing terrorists, and I think that, to some extent, that consumed him.” An officer who worked closely with Flynn in the field told me, “If you spend years hunting terrorists and honing this killing machine,” some people “get unhinged by all that.”
One after another in my interviews, people who know Flynn speculated about the possibility of cognitive decline or a psychological disorder, then shied away. McCaffrey was the only person prepared to say on the record, “I think he was having mental-health problems.”
At every stage of his career in the Army, Flynn’s performance had been dissected and judged by a senior rater. Given his rapid ascent, he must have been promoted at least twice “below the zone,” or before he would normally have been eligible. Shouldn’t the Army have seen the seeds of Flynn’s unraveling?
McCaffrey said that that is asking too much. There are hundreds of generals in the Army, he said, and nearly 1,000 flag officers across the armed services. They are among the most rigorously selected people in any profession.
“As people get older, in particular, and as circumstances push in on them,” he said, “every year there’s some fairly small number who have mental-health problems … So yeah, some of them go bad. But Flynn went bad in one of the most spectacular manners we’ve ever witnessed. You know, it wasn’t just bad judgment. It was demented behavior.”
Demented, and well rewarded. Which is still another potential explanation for the Flynn we see today.
Somebody is making good money on the “ReAwaken America” tour. At $250 a ticket, the gate for the Canton event was in the neighborhood of three-quarters of a million dollars, not including sales of MAGA swag, Flynn memorabilia, Jesus hats, survival gear, vitamins and plant pigments marketed as COVID therapy, and, inevitably, MyPillow bedroom furnishings. Clay Clark, the emcee, is a Tulsa-based business coach who conceived of and organizes the tour; he holds the two-day events every month. Clark declined, in an interview, to say what Flynn’s cut is.
It could be that I am wrong about Flynn’s purity of belief. It could be that he is responding, rationally enough, to incentives. Flynn faced monumental legal bills in his criminal case, and there is a lucrative role in the MAGA ecosystem for someone who says the things that he says. John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff and a retired general, told me that Flynn “spent quite a bit of money” to defend himself. Perhaps, Kelly said, “he’s trying to make some of that money back.”
Then there is the lure of adulation. The latter-day Flynn is celebrated by adoring crowds. Standing onstage, he gets to be the hero once again.
This morning’s Washington Post reported that Flynn is in trouble with the Pentagon again— for taking unauthorized payoffs (around $450,000) from Russia and Turkey. The Department of Defense is, in effect, suing him.
And as long as we’re talking about TrumpWorld grifters and insurrectionists, The Guardian has an interesting piece this morning about Roger Stone and Ali Alexander allowing right-wing film makers Jason Rink and Paul Escandon record their “Stop The Steal” activities for several months before the insurrection, including “fly-on-the-wall footage of Stone and Alexander as they led the Stop the Steal movement, and their interactions with top Trump allies, like Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rudy Giuliani and, of course, Michael Flynn. Stone, a notorious and brazen liar, has denied he had anything to do with the insurrection. He took the 5th when he was subpoenaed by the select committee and has asserted that ‘Any claim, assertion or implication that I knew about, was involved in or condoned any illegal event on January 6, or any other date, is categorically false and there is no evidence or witness to the contrary.’”
But while the full extent of what the film-makers recorded remains unclear, parts of the footage reviewed by the Guardian make The Steal Movie seem like a detailed account of the behind-the-scenes efforts by Stone to stop Biden from becoming president.
The activities of Stone with respect to stopping Biden’s certification is of interest to January 6 investigators since he had close ties to leaders of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups that stormed the Capitol and have since been indicted for seditious conspiracy.
Many of the key moments for the Stop the Steal movement, managed by Alexander but ultimately controlled by Stone, according to sources familiar with how they worked in practice, were captured on tape by Rink and Escandon’s film crew.
The film-makers followed Stone and Alexander starting immediately after the 2020 election and tracked Stop the Steal leaders descending on multiple states to advance discredited claims of election fraud.
Several important moments in the timeline leading up to the Capitol attack are caught on camera.
The footage first shows Alexander in the Georgia state capitol in mid-November 2020, around the time that he and the far-right activist Alex Jones staged an “occupation” protest of the building, in a stunt that echoed plans to “occupy” the US Capitol on January 6.
The film-makers are then present with Stone at a rally in Washington DC on 12 December 2020, where Michael Flynn, a former Trump national security adviser-turned political operative, spoke at a Women for America First-affiliated event near the supreme court.
That event is significant because the Proud Boys were in Washington that day, and a contingent marched through the National Mall similar to how they did on January 6. The Oath Keepers, another far-right group, acted as a security detail at the rally, similar again to January 6.
The film-makers are also understood to have captured some footage the day before and the day of the Capitol attack, including discussions between Stone and Alexander, as well as the fate of the “Stage 8” rally that Alexander had planned on January 6 yards from the Capitol.
Stone never went to the Save America rally at the Ellipse where Trump spoke, after a dispute over VIP passes, according to people familiar with the incident. He also never went to the planned Stage 8 rally on the East Front of the Capitol and instead left Washington in a hurry.
The StealMovie website offers an official trailer, promises another one "soon" and shows this picture of some of the perps (Finchem is a Republican candidate for Arizona Secretary of State, Vernon Jones-- promoting himself as "the Black Donald Trump, and with Trump's endorsement-- was just defeated in a Georgia congressional run, Nick Fuentes in a notorious racist and neo-Nazi and Ali Alexander has snitched on the rest of them to save his own ass):