The first response from Trumpworld was telegraphed on Fox News, where a media panel composed of Ellen Ratner and Tammy Bruce argued “this is not going to touch the president at all.”
“Remember, he was in fact fired from the White House, also for not telling the truth,” the panelists said. “So, he clearly has a problem with the the truth. …Everyone who is it still hoping and wishing for this to attach to the president, they are going to be very disappointed.”
This tactic was also adopted by Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, who released a statement minimizing Flynn’s role in the Trump White House, referred to him as an Obama administration official, and concluded that “nothing about the guilty plea of the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”
This is going to be White House strategy for as long as they can keep Trump from talking or tweeting about it. “He worked for Obama’s longer/he’s a proven liar” pic.twitter.com/Pb7e3Kfs6M
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 1, 2017
But this version of history excises the regular, public, laudatory compliments that Trump — as both a candidate and then as the president — has showered on Flynn.
A ‘terrific guy’ on the campaign trail with candidate Trump
When Trump was campaigning for the White House, he frequently praised Flynn and touted Flynn’s endorsement. Trump often called Flynn up to the podium to say a few words, and then played him off saying things like “How good is General Flynn? Is he good?” And the day that Trump attempted a dramatic announcement of FBI Director James Comey’s decision to re-open the Clinton email inquiry, Trump sent Flynn out to vamp in front of the crowd while Trump learned about the news, and thanked him afterward.
July 2016: “I’ve been a fan of his for a long time”
Appearing on Herman Cain’s radio show to discuss what kind of people he had in mind for cabinet positions, Trump said, according to a transcript of the show, that Flynn had impressed him recently. “I’ll tell you who was really impressed recently in my opinion, Gen. Flynn,” Trump said. “I watched him, I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. So smart, so sharp and all of those things. Just a terrific guy and so many others.
July 2016: Named Flynn as a “great” adviser
During a July news conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said that Flynn was one of his trusted advisers. “I have great foreign advisers,” he said. “As an example, General Quinn and General Flynn, and we have so many — we have so many.”
August 2016: Compared Flynn to famous generals
In an August rally in Maine, Trump began talking about how America doesn’t win anymore, and cited Flynn as similar to the “tough cookies” like Patton and MacArthur. “Can you imagine General Douglas MacArthur, can you imagine General Patton? These were tough, tough cookies,” he said. “And we have those people. We have them. How about General Flynn, we love General Flynn right? Mike Flynn. We have those people.
September 2016: “I love General Flynn”
In a speech to the Values Voter Summit, Trump said he loved Flynn. “Can you imagine the great general Douglas MacArthur, can you imagine the great General George Patton, or one of our great generals we have today — General Flynn who is here someplace. I love General Flynn.”
September 2016: “A man who’s just so incredible”
At a September campaign event in Cleveland with Don King, Trump touted Flynn as “a man who’s just so incredible” and “a man who knows how to end problems,” and repeated the comparisons to Patton.
August 2016: One of the “fantastic” people coming to the White House
In an August rally in North Carolina, Trump mentioned Flynn as one of the “fantastic” people he wanted to bring with him to the White House.
August 2016: One of the “great people” consulting on foreign affairs
In an August interview on Fox, Trump cited Flynn as one of the “great people” he talked to about security issues. “General Flynn and other of the generals — these are great people,” Trump said, adding that he asks these type of people for foreign policy advice.
September 2016: An adviser “that I respect”
Trump cited Flynn as one of his military advisers “that I respect” during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer in September. “You see General Flynn and you see some of the folks that we have. They’re scattered throughout the audience,” Trump said. “So we have admirals, we have generals, we have colonels, we have a lot of people that I respect.”
September 2016: A “truly great general”
Trump finished a campaign town hall event for veterans that Flynn hosted by thanking the general: “And of course, a truly great general, right here, Mike thank you, thank you.”
At the same event, Flynn noted this piece of advice he got from Trump that, if not prophetic, could at least prove ironic given Flynn’s guilty plea: “And just to highlight, one of the things that you have talked about is accountability of the people that are serving our veterans in the veterans administration and the veterans administration system, the whole system. And I think that for all of us, accountability is probably something, not just in the veterans administration but in government as a whole.”
October 2016: A “great, great guy”
At an October 2016 campaign event in Colorado, Trump said when he flies with Flynn and Gen. Kellogg, “I sort of feel like I’m number three.”
“These guys are great, great guys. Amazing. I just spoke to the generals, these are real generals, too. These are real guys,” he said. “I love having ’em on my plane but when I’m on my plane with them I sort of feel like I’m number three. Does that make sense? You know, they’re generals.”
October 2016: “Tough and smart”
In an October rally in Michigan, Trump called out Flynn as “a phenomenal man.”
“Do we all love General Flynn? Tough. Tough and smart,” Trump said. “We want tough and we want smart; he’s both.”
A ‘wonderful man’ even after he was fired
Despite concerns about ethical problems voiced by none other than the person running the presidential transition effort, Michael Flynn joined Trump’s transition team with an easy glide path to his preferred White House job. Trump administration officials praised him during his short time in the White House.
Less than a month after becoming the White House National Security Adviser, however, Trump asked Flynn for his resignation after he misled Vice President Pence. Many would assume this would stop the parade of adulation from Trump, but it only intensified.
January 2017: “What a good guy”
Trump called out Flynn in his speech at CIA headquarters the day after he was inaugurated: “And, by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand. What a good guy.”
February 2017: “A wonderful man”
“Michael Flynn, General Flynn is a wonderful man,” Trump said soon after accepting Flynn’s resignation. “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”
He added that he thought it was “very, very unfair what has happened to Gen. Flynn,” and lamented “the way he was treated and the documents and papers that were illegally, I stress that, illegally leaked.”
February 2017: “A fine man”
Trump told reporters that after he asked for Flynn’s resignation, Flynn “respectfully gave it.” But he went on to praise Flynn. “With all that being said, I think he’s a fine man,” Trump said, who continued to stress that Flynn did nothing wrong while talking to the Russian ambassador about dropping U.S. sanctions.
March 2017: “Should ask for immunity” from Russia inquiry
In March, Trump tweeted that Flynn should ask for immunity from the Russia investigation, which he called a “witch hunt.”
Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2017
May 2017: “A very good person”
Several months after Flynn’s firing in February, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that Flynn was a “very good person.”
“This man [Flynn] has served for many years, he’s a general, he’s a — in my opinion — a very good person,” Trump said. “I believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don’t even know and immediately run out and fire a general.”