Flynn’s rise with Trump rapid, his fall even faster

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michael Flynn was President Donald Trump’s favorite general, rapidly vaulted to prominence by his fiery speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention about jailing Hillary Clinton and by Trump’s decision to reward him with a plum job as his top national security aide.

Flynn’s plunge was even faster. He was fired by Trump after just a month in the White House and left to contend with a mounting criminal probe that led to his decision to plead guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Flynn, 58, is the first person who served in the Trump White House to be charged in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also becomes the first former national security adviser to be charged with a felony since the fallout from the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s.

Flynn came to the fore as the stern, hawkish persona of the tough national security image Trump sought to project to the nation and the world during last year’s campaign. Trump admired “my generals,” as he described the military men he brought into his campaign, and for Flynn, the growing bond with the insurgent GOP candidate was life altering.

Flynn was a familiar presence on the Trump campaign trail, his appearance intended to lend national security gravitas to an election effort short on established names. At campaign events, and at the Republican convention, Flynn led cheers of “Lock her up” about the Democratic candidate and her email practices.

Flynn’s vaunted military career as an intelligence specialist had ended in a forced dismissal by senior Obama administration officials. As a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, he had to scramble for opportunities advising cybersecurity companies and starting up his own consulting firm. But Trump’s growing admiration provided Flynn with the promise of a pivotal national role and a public forum for his increasingly defiant screeds against “radical Islam” and the Obama administration.

Trump lauded Flynn as an “invaluable asset” in November 2016 as he named him his national security adviser. And even after Trump fired him in February, the president continued to hold Flynn in high esteem, grousing that such a “wonderful man” had been laid low by leaks and pesky media.

Flynn’s path to the courtroom can be traced back to two events on the same day — Election Day 2016. That morning, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill newspaper, trumpeting the talking points of the Turkish government.

Within weeks, Flynn had been named national security adviser and the Justice Department had taken an interest in the op-ed as possible evidence of unregistered foreign agent work.

While Flynn’s attorneys began the process of determining whether he would need to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Flynn had a phone conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States that was recorded by the U.S. government and that swiftly caught the attention of the Justice Department.

He was interviewed by FBI agents on Jan. 24 about his communications with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and about whether they had discussed sanctions imposed on Russia following its election interference.

Days later, then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had been compromised because of discrepancies between the White House narrative — that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions — and the reality of what occurred.

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