The fallen military hero who could bring down a president: How Mike Flynn marched into Trump's inner circle – and now his lies and links to Russia threaten the presidency itself

  • Michael Flynn, Trump's former National Security Advisor, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI in dramatic plea deal with Mueller's probe into Trump
  • The 58-year-old Army veteran had worked his way up the military ranks until he retired as a three-star lieutenant general in 2014
  • He was forced from government?service into retirement by the Obama administration in 2014 for 'calling calling our enemies radical jihadis'
  • Flynn then set up a company accepting speaking fees from Russian entities and he was pictured sitting next to Vladimir?Putin in 2015?
  • The military man was rumored to be Trump's pick for vice president in July 2016 but was named as his ?National Security Advisor before he resigned in?February

Mike Flynn was a three-star decorated Army general and the guardian of America’s top military secrets – and now he is poised to end his career with a sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators.

The 58-year-old Army veteran worked his way up the military ranks for over three decades, from second lieutenant in military intelligence in 1981 until he retired as a three-star lieutenant general in 2014.

He has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. He was appointed by President Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, the agency that oversees U.S. military intelligence operations.?

But that tenure ended in a bitter firing amid claims that he veered into conspiracy theories. Others laughed about ‘Flynn facts’, the fake claims he had fallen for despite being at the pinnacle of military intelligence.?

Flynn’s tenure in the Trump administration was considerably shorter – and even more disastrous for all concerned.?

Mike Flynn was a three-star decorated Army general and the guardian of America’s top military secrets – and now he is poised to end his career with a sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators

Mike Flynn was a three-star decorated Army general and the guardian of America’s top military secrets – and now he is poised to end his career with a sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators

Mike Flynn and his wife Lori arrived in court in Washington D.C. on Friday to plead guilty to a federal judge of lying to the FBI. He faces five years - but is almost certain to have made a deal with Robert Mueller which could implicate others

Mike Flynn and his wife Lori arrived in court in Washington D.C. on Friday to plead guilty to a federal judge of lying to the FBI. He faces five years - but is almost certain to have made a deal with Robert Mueller which could implicate others

According to the information, which includes just a single count, Flynn lied just days before President Trump took office about his contacts with Russia's then ambassador to the U.S.

According to the information, which includes just a single count, Flynn lied just days before President Trump took office about his contacts with Russia's then ambassador to the U.S.

In this image made from a video taken on December 10, 2015 and made available on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Michael Flynn, left, sits next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow

In this image made from a video taken on December 10, 2015 and made available on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Michael Flynn, left, sits next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow

He lasted just 24 days as President Trump’s National Security Advisor before he was fired amid allegations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

The conservative movement’s embrace of Flynn – an Obama-era official and lifelong Democrat until he led the ‘lock her up’ chants at the Republican convention in 2016 – was just one of the unexpected spectacles of the last election cycle.

Flynn’s tough-talking approach to national security and his vocal denunciations of political Islam and his public clashes with the Obama administration endeared him to many on the political right.

But Flynn’s time as a conservative icon was short-lived. He was ousted as Trump’s National Security Advisor in February, and has been under investigation by federal law enforcement and congress over the past year.

Now Flynn faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Flynn was born in December 1958. His parents, who he once described as strong Democrats, traveled the world for his World War II veteran father’s military career before settling down in Middletown, Rhode Island.

Growing up, Flynn shared bunk beds and a small bedroom with his brother Chris – he is one of nine children, who remain close - before he left home to attend college at the University of Rhode Island.

Flynn was known among friends and family members as the more outgoing brother, according to a 2011 profile of the former general in the Newport Daily News. He also loved ‘cheap cars’ and ‘pizza’ and rock music – especially the songs of Lou Reed.?

Local hero: Flynn was honored in August 1972 by Middletown councilman Francis LaPointe, with a commendation and town title for pulling one small girl from the path of rolling car, and directing a friend to save another girl

Local hero: Flynn was honored in August 1972 by Middletown councilman Francis LaPointe, with a commendation and town title for pulling one small girl from the path of rolling car, and directing a friend to save another girl

In this undated photo provided by Joe Flynn, Michael Flynn, left, stands with his mother Helen Flynn, right, near a football field, in Middletown, Rhode Island?

In this undated photo provided by Joe Flynn, Michael Flynn, left, stands with his mother Helen Flynn, right, near a football field, in Middletown, Rhode Island?

Packed in: The Flynns were brought up in this 1,200 square ft beach house, which his mother Helen ran as a 'bunkhouse', his brother Jack said

Packed in: The Flynns were brought up in this 1,200 square ft beach house, which his mother Helen ran as a 'bunkhouse', his brother Jack said

One family member told the paper that Flynn’s outlook was largely shaped by the ‘scrappy, no BS Irish-Catholic humble start [he] had in Newport.’ Flynn went on to attend the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and was commissioned into the Army as an intelligence officer in 1981.

Growing up so close to the ocean in Rhode Island, Flynn, along with his siblings, became strong swimmers and surfers. And the retired military man?became known for his skateboarding style and boldness in the water.

And while he was at the center of the Mueller probe in July, months before he was charged, Flynn was spotted surfing with his sister.?

His military career eventually took him to Washington, where he served as the president’s intelligence advisor for the Joint Staff from 2007 to 2008, and later as an intelligence advisor on Afghanistan.

Flynn became a three-star general – one of 230 active Army generals at the time – and was appointed to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Obama in 2012.

Flynn lasted just two years at the agency before his military career ended when Obama dismissed him as defense intelligence chief in 2014.?

Flynn claimed he was pushed out for holding tougher views than the Obama administration about Islamic extremism, others claim it was due to his clashes with others in the administration and ‘turbulence’ at the agency – including the damaging intelligence leaks from Edward Snowden in 2013.?

One of Flynn's brother revealed the ex-three star general did not want to take national security role but Trump pressed him

One of Flynn's brother revealed the ex-three star general did not want to take national security role but Trump pressed him

Flynn set up a company accepting speaking fees from Russian entities after he was forced from service into retirement by Obama administration in 2014

Flynn set up a company accepting speaking fees from Russian entities after he was forced from service into retirement by Obama administration in 2014

Mike Flynn business with his former business partner Bijan Kian (center). He has become a subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation for his role in the failure of Flynn's former lobbying firm to disclose its work on behalf of foreign governments

Mike Flynn business with his former business partner Bijan Kian (center). He has become a subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation for his role in the failure of Flynn's former lobbying firm to disclose its work on behalf of foreign governments

Writing an op-ed for the New York Post in July 2016, Flynn said: 'The military fired me for calling our enemies radical jihadis. I knew then it had more to do with the stand I took on radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda and its associated movements.?

He blamed his dismissal on 'the bureaucracy' and said that things had gotten 'too politicized.'???

After leaving the Obama administration, Flynn went into private sector and founded a lobbying and consulting firm called Flynn Intel Group. That decision now seems to have set in motion his doom.?

His clients have included foreign businesses, including a Dutch firm with ties to the Turkish government.

The company, Inovo, owned by Turkish-American businessman Ekim Alpetkin, paid Flynn over $500,000 last fall to lobby on its behalf.

Flynn, who was also advising the Trump campaign at the time, was asked by the company to conduct research into Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, an adversary of Turkish President Recep Erdogan.?

Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has been accused of engineering an unsuccessful coup against Erdogan. Flynn was reportedly hired to investigate Gulen and put together a film about the case.??

Although Flynn registered as a lobbyist, he did not register as a foreign agent at the time.?

He retroactively filed foreign agent registration papers this year, after his attorney’s acknowledged the project’s potential benefit to the Turkish government and Alpetkin’s links to Turkish officials.?

Investigators early on focused not only on Flynn, but on his son, Michael Flynn Jr (pictured with Flynn), making the military man concerned about legal exposure born by his son?

Investigators early on focused not only on Flynn, but on his son, Michael Flynn Jr (pictured with Flynn), making the military man concerned about legal exposure born by his son?

Flynn Jr has propagated the view that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to CNN

Flynn Jr has propagated the view that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to CNN

He has also speculated that Sen. Marco Rubio, who lost to Trump in the Republican primary campaign, was secretly gay and indulged in cocaine

He has also speculated that Sen. Marco Rubio, who lost to Trump in the Republican primary campaign, was secretly gay and indulged in cocaine

After pleading guilty, Flynn and his wife headed to the Alexandria, Virginia, home of their son Mike Flynn Jr and greeted their grandson Travis with a kiss. Shortly afterwards, Michael Flynn Jr tweeted that 'family is the most important thing' and thanked everyone for the support?

After pleading guilty, Flynn and his wife headed to the Alexandria, Virginia, home of their son Mike Flynn Jr and greeted their grandson Travis with a kiss. Shortly afterwards, Michael Flynn Jr tweeted that 'family is the most important thing' and thanked everyone for the support?

TEAM TRUMP FOR PRISON 2018: THE AIDES FACING JAIL ALREADY - SO WHO WILL MUELLER TARGET NEXT?

PAUL MANAFORT?

Trump campaign manager March - August 2016

Manafort, 68, was charged with conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder, and other charges, after US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia undertook a campaign of hacking and misinformation to tilt the election in Trump's favor. He pleaded not guilty in October to a 12-count indictment by a federal grand jury.

RICK GATES?

Business associate and deputy to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort?

Gates, 45, was indicted along with his business associate, Paul Manafort after the first charges from the probe of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election were unsealed. He pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment?

George Papadopoulos

Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, March 2016 - January 2017

Papadopoulos, 30, pleaded guilty on October 5 to making false statements to investigators about his conversations with overseas sources about potential Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton.?

Flynn has also come under fire for accepting $35,000 from the Russian state-sponsored news channel RT to speak at its 10th anniversary gala in Moscow in 2015. Damningly, he sat beside Putin.

Over the past few years, Flynn had grown increasingly vocal in his criticism of political Islam and its connection to terrorism.

In 2016, Flynn called Islamism a ‘vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people’ that ‘has to be excised.’

Flynn became a prominent surrogate for Donald Trump during the 2016 election, at one point drawing speculation that he might be chosen as a vice presidential candidate.?

He admitted he submitted his name for consideration, despite being registered as a Democrat.?

He ultimately joined the Trump campaign as an advisor and gave a speech supporting the candidate at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

During the campaign, Flynn often denounced Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server to send classified information while serving as secretary of state. At one rally, he encouraged the audience’s chants of ‘lock her up!’ and declared, ‘If I did a tenth of what she did, I’d be in jail today.’

Flynn’s son, Mike Flynn Jr., went further with his criticism of Clinton, and his comments became a magnet for controversy during the campaign and the presidential transition.?

The younger Flynn, who worked alongside his father on the presidential transition and the Trump campaign, appeared to endorse the ‘Pizzagate’ internet theory promoted by critics of Clinton last December.?

The theory alleged that Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta was involved in a child sex trafficking ring supposedly run out of the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Although the theory was never substantiated, one man was arrested last winter for carrying a gun to the restaurant and firing several shots after reading about the ‘Pizzagate’ allegations online. Nobody was injured and the man was arrested and taken into custody on the spot.

‘Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many "coincidences" tied to it,’ wrote Flynn Jr. on Twitter.

Flynn Jr. also previously claimed on Twitter that minorities only voted for Obama because of his skin color, and promoted theories that Marco Rubio used cocaine and participated in ‘gayish’ dance parties.?

Flynn Jr. was let go by the Trump transition team last December, shortly before his father was tapped as Trump’s National Security Advisor in January.?

The elder Flynn lasted less than a month in the job before he was fired for allegedly misleading Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

But those days when he did serve saw him at the heart of the administration. ‘He was always in the room, and on every call,’ one official told The New Yorker.

That may be what will make Trump and those around him sweat most.?

Mike Flynn's son Mike Jr posted this picture in June of the disgraced national security adviser and his sister Barbara Redgate surfing in June

Mike Flynn's son Mike Jr posted this picture in June of the disgraced national security adviser and his sister Barbara Redgate surfing in June

The Flynn family grew up surfing on Rhode Island where they lived in Middletown and Mike was known for his willingness to go into riskier waters

The Flynn family grew up surfing on Rhode Island where they lived in Middletown and Mike was known for his willingness to go into riskier waters

Mike Flynn's wife Lori was at his side as he arrived in court. The two were high school sweethearts and married in 1981

Mike Flynn's wife Lori was at his side as he arrived in court. The two were high school sweethearts and married in 1981

Shortly after Flynn's guilty plea was announced, former FBI Director James Comey used the moment to make his first Instagram post and shared the post on Twitter

Shortly after Flynn's guilty plea was announced, former FBI Director James Comey used the moment to make his first Instagram post and shared the post on Twitter

Comey shared an image of a flowing stream and quoted Biblical passage Amos 5:24: 'But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream'

Comey shared an image of a flowing stream and quoted Biblical passage Amos 5:24: 'But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream'

Comey was fired by Trump on May 9, the former FBI Director claims that Trump wanted him to have the FBI drop the probe into Flynn

Comey was fired by Trump on May 9, the former FBI Director claims that Trump wanted him to have the FBI drop the probe into Flynn

Federal officials say Flynn had multiple contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after the election and during Trump’s presidential transition. The calls between Flynn and Kislyak were allegedly intercepted through intelligence gathering by the Obama administration.

Flynn’s name was later released to the Washington Post – which reported that Flynn and the Russian ambassador discussed the possibility of the Trump administration repealing Russian sanctions.

According to federal investigators, Flynn asked Russian Ambassador Kislyak to hold off on any political retaliation last December in response to the Obama administration’s decision to increase sanctions on Russia in the wake of the presidential election.

The Obama administration had placed the sanctions on Russia last year, after multiple U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government was involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee.?

Intelligence officials claimed Russia released thousands of embarrassing emails to Wikileaks related to the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, in an attempt to tip the presidential election in favour of Trump.

Prosecutors said Flynn also asked the Russian ambassador to delay voting on a UN resolution that was critical of Israel during a conversation last Dec. 22, but told investigators that he did not recall discussing this.?

Notorious figure: Kisylak (right) was in communication with Flynn before Trump took office - but long after the inauguration he was invited to the Oval Office with Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, for a meeting with Trump which was photographed by Russian media, not American reporters

Notorious figure: Kisylak (right) was in communication with Flynn before Trump took office - but long after the inauguration he was invited to the Oval Office with Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, for a meeting with Trump which was photographed by Russian media, not American reporters

Key figure: Flynn worked for Turkey whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now move into the spotlight of the Russia collusion probe but Putin remains in the spotlight
Key figure: Flynn worked for Turkey whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now move into the spotlight of the Russia collusion probe but Putin remains in the spotlight

Key figure: Flynn worked for Turkey whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now move into the spotlight of the Russia collusion probe but Putin remains in the spotlight

A US official said that Flynn was in frequent contact with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia after US intelligence reported that Russia had interfered with the US elections

A US official said that Flynn was in frequent contact with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia after US intelligence reported that Russia had interfered with the US elections

Mike Flynn, whose brief White House career is now being subjected to Robert Mueller's forensic scrutiny, is in court and due to plead guilty to lying to the FBI

Mike Flynn, whose brief White House career is now being subjected to Robert Mueller's forensic scrutiny, is in court and due to plead guilty to lying to the FBI

Mueller's office charged Flynn with making 'false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements' - an offense which carries a maximum sentence of five years

Mueller's office charged Flynn with making 'false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements' - an offense which carries a maximum sentence of five years

These revelations came shortly after Vice President Mike Pence publicly defended Flynn and said the National Security Advisor did not discuss sanctions with Russian officials.?

After the Washington Post report, Flynn was fired and administration officials said he had lied to the vice president.?

At the time, Flynn’s lawyers dismissed the allegations as ‘unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo.’ Flynn has not publicly commented on the matter since February.

But he was clearly deeply in trouble, and financially close to ruin. He and his family launched an appeal for cash for his defense fund, and while his son told how his father was surfing regularly, in reality he was sweating over his own and his family’s future.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about the conversations on Friday.

Flynn is the second subject to plead guilty in connection to the Mueller probe. Former Trump national security advisor George Papadopoulos also pleaded guilty in October for lying about his Russian contacts.

Former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to financial-related crimes in October.??

HERO TO ZERO IN THREE MONTHS: TIMELINE OF FLYNN'S RUSSIA TROUBLES?

November 17:?Trump names Flynn as his White House National Security Advisor and the retired military man accepts the following day.?

December 1: Flynn and Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband and Trump's son-in-law- met with?Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower.?

December 22:? A 'very senior member' of Trump's transition team instructs Flynn to 'contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia' in attempt to influence a UN resolution vote, according to Mueller's team.?

Following orders, Flynn then asked Kislyak to have Russia vote against the resolution or simply delay the vote, the charging document claims.?

December 29: Obama announces sanctions against Russia over alleged hacks targeting election. Flynn spoke with Russian ambassador Kislyak repeatedly the same day, it was later reported.?

December 30: Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will not respond to the sanctions, surprising many U.S. officials. Trump praises Putin's decision as 'very smart.'

January 13: Trump spokesman Sean Spicer says Flynn had called Kislyak merely to set up a phone call between Trump and Putin

January 15: Vice President-elect Mike Pence says in an interview with CBS that Flynn had not discussed santions in the call with Kislyak

January 20: Trump inaugurated president

January 23: Spicer, now White House spokesman, said Flynn had told him the call to Kislyak covered four topics: a plane crash that killed a Russian military choir; Christmas greetings; Russian-led talks over the Syrian civil war; and logistics for a call between Putin and Trump

January 20-30 (exact date unclear): Acting Attorney General Sally Yates briefs Trump officials that intercepted communications indicated Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak in ways she believed were 'highly significant' and 'potentially illegal'

January 30: Trump fires Yates for refusing to defend executive immigration order in court

February 8:?Flynn denies in interviews that he discussed sanctions in the calls with Kislyak

February 9: Flynn backpedals, saying through a spokesperson that he 'couldn't be certain' sanctions weren't discussed

February 13: Report breaks of Justice Department concerns about blackmail, and Flynn resigns hours later

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.