It’s been a year since Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump‘s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Flynn reportedly promised “full cooperation” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Some conservatives have wavered in their support for Flynn, however, after Mueller revealed this month that he provided “substantial assistance” in “several ongoing investigations.” Flynn was so helpful, in fact, that Mueller recommended he serve no prison time, despite facing charges that could land him in prison for up to five years.
The judge overseeing the sentencing requested additional information regarding the case last week, and in the meantime, a new talking point has taken hold in the conservative echo chamber: The theory that Flynn’s potential favorable deal was an admission by federal prosecutors that they had tricked him into lying to the FBI.
This conspiracy theory made it into the pages of the Wall Street Journal, the mind of outgoing Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Benghazi), and a Trump tweet, even as prosecutors have explained to the court why the notion that Flynn didn’t know what he was doing while lying to federal investigators is absurd.
Mueller responds to Flynn’s lawyer: “A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33 year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents." pic.twitter.com/Ho83uTZiTM
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) December 14, 2018
The Trump-endorsed conspiracy theory took another hit on Monday — one day before Flynn is due to be sentenced as part of the special counsel’s investigation — when the former national security adviser’s business partner was charged with violating foreign lobbying laws and lying to the FBI over his work with the Turkish government.
The charges against Bijan Kian — a member of Trump’s presidential transition team — focus on a plot to get Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, extradited to Turkey. Gulen has been accused of planning a 2016 coup by Turkish autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump reportedly claimed to be looking into extraditing Gulen to Turkey at the G20 Summit two weeks ago.
Though Flynn “acknowledged lying” about his business ties with the Turkish government in his plea deal late last year, Monday’s allegations by federal prosecutors are further proof that he was involved in a pattern of criminal behavior and didn’t “just” lie in one interview with FBI investigators — which is a federal crime despite the claims of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
MSNBC legal analyst Daniel Goldman put the latest allegations into perspective.
While serving as Trump’s closest foreign policy and national security advisor during the campaign, Flynn was getting paid – secretly – by a foreign country to lobby against the stated interests of the United States, and executed a complicated cover up to hide it. Stunning.
— Daniel Goldman (@danielsgoldman) December 17, 2018
DOJ's press release on the charges: https://t.co/pPfMj34wyz
I strikes me as seriously weird, even w Flynn's cooperation, to throw so many counts at the business partners of the former National Security Advisor and leave him as an unindicted co-conspirator facing no jail time.
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) December 17, 2018
Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano likely shocked Fox Business viewers by debunking popular conservative conspiracy theories about Trump’s former national security adviser in real-time on Monday.
Trump’s top foreign policy adviser during the 2016 campaign, Flynn was fired a few weeks into his tenure as national security adviser — the shortest in history — because Trump claimed he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his dealings with a Russian ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration.
The president allegedly pressured then-FBI director James Comey to end an investigation into Flynn and the Russia probe shortly before firing Comey last year. Trump later admitted that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”
In addition to lies about his ties to Russia and Turkey, Flynn has also faced scrutiny for undisclosed connections to a trillion-dollar nuclear deal, a $45,000 speech for a Russian state-funded media outlet at a 2015 event — where he was seated next to Russian president Vladimir Putin — and a history of disturbing social media activity.
The Washington Post recently detailed how Flynn went from the Defense Intelligence Agency director under President Barack Obama — who reportedly warned the president-elect not to hire Flynn days after the 2016 election — to being one of Trump’s most vocal surrogates.
As his son’s rhetoric became more radical, the father, too, ratcheted up his attacks on the forces he blamed for destroying America. The father told a crowd that Obama “didn’t grow up as an American.” Two friends said Flynn told them he agreed with his son about Pizzagate.