National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is under fire after reports that he spoke with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about lifting sanctions on Russia, despite the fact that Flynn repeatedly claimed he has never done so.
The Washington Post reported on February 9th that current and former U.S. officials are confirming that the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak took place. Flynn denied this as recently as Wednesday of last week.
However, Flynn has since backed away from that denial, with a spokesperson telling The Washington Post that Flynn can’t remember if he talked about sanctions with Kislyak but that he “couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
In a statement released on Monday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that President Trump is “evaluating the situation.”
Michael Flynn only recently became involved in the world of politics. He is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who supported Donald Trump during the presidential campaign and was later brought on as a key advisor in the Trump White House.
Here’s what you need to know about Michael Flynn and his political views.
1. He Is a Registered Democrat
Although Michael Flynn is serving under a Republican president, he is actually a registered Democrat, and he comes from a Democratic family.
In a July 2016 interview with ABC News, Flynn did not specify whether he has changed his party affiliation since backing Donald Trump, but he simply said that the modern Democratic party does not represent the views that he grew up with.
“I grew up as a Democrat in a very strong Democratic family, but I will tell you that Democratic party that exists in this country is not the Democratic Party that I grew up around in my upbringing,” he said. “I vote for leaders.”
He went on to say, though, that he did not vote much when he was in the military because “I served whoever was the commander in chief in the military.”
2. He Told ABC News That Women Have the Right to Choose, But Later Clarified That He is Pro-Life
Michael Flynn made news in that same ABC interview when he seemed to reveal that he is pro-choice, saying that women should be the ones to make a decision about whether to have an abortion.
This interview came as Michael Flynn was reportedly being considered for the position of vice president, and after the ABC News interview, the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List released a statement saying that Flynn’s comment was unacceptable.
“This pro-choice issue is a legal issue that should be decided by the courts,” Flynn said on Fox News. “I believe in law. If people want to change the law, they should vote so that we can appoint pro-life judges. I believe the law should be changed.”
3. He Delivered a Speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention
Michael Flynn has never really been involved in politics before 2016, and so there’s only so much we know about his political views. But we can learn a lot from the fiery speech he delivered at the 2016 Republican National Convention in July.
Flynn opened his speech by saying, “Wake up, America.” He went on to focus mainly on foreign policy, criticizing President Barack Obama for what Flynn viewed as failed leadership around the world.
“From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat, and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton,” Flynn said. “We must…lead our friends and allies with more determination than ever before, with conviction in our beliefs that pierces through the ideology of any people or any nation that attacks America, America’s way of life, and our proud heritage of fearlessness and courage.”
He goes on to characterize the Obama administration’s foreign policy as consisting of “bumbling indecisiveness, willful ignorance, and total incompetence,” also describing Obama as a “spineless president who is more concerned about issuing apologies than protecting Americans.” He then joins Donald Trump in expressing the belief that America must use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” when talking about ISIS.
“I am deadly certain that we cannot win this war unless we are free to call our enemies by name: radical Islamists and failed tyrants,” he says.
He concludes by saying that Donald Trump as president would “execute the fundamental tenant of peace through strength, and there will be no apologies for our American exceptionalism or leadership standing around the world.”
4. He Has Said That Fear of Muslims is Rational
Michael Flynn has been criticized for his comments demonizing Islam as a whole. For instance, in February 2016, Flynn tweeted, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others: the truth fears no questions.” Accompanying the tweet was a video saying that fear of Islam is rational because Muslims want to enslave or eradicate 80 percent of humanity.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Flynn again suggested that Islam as a whole is a threat to America.
“There’s something going on in the Muslim world,” he said. “Why do we have heightened security at our airports? It’s not because the Catholic Church is falling apart.”
As outlined by CNN, Flynn also frequently interacted on Twitter with users associated with the “alt-right,” the fringe, far-right movement that consists largely of white nationalists. These interactions included instances of Flynn tweeting in support of Jared Wyland, an alt-right commentator who has complained about the “Liberal Jewish media.”
Over the summer, Flynn also retweeted an anti-Semitic message: a tweet that read, “Cnn implicated. ‘The USSR is to blame!’ … Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” Flynn issued an apology a few hours later, saying that the retweet was a mistake, according to Politico. Flynn has since deleted his entire Twitter account.
5. He Once Said He Is Against Waterboarding But Later Suggested He’s Open to Its Use
Michael Flynn was once very much against the use of waterboarding and other similar interrogation techniques. While speaking about waterboarding in an interview with Al Jazeera in 2016, Flynn stated, “‘[H]istory is not gonna look kind on those actions that you’re describing right now, and we will be held, we should be held accountable for many, many years to come.”
This was in contrast to Donald Trump, who during his campaign promised to bring back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
However, Flynn later expressed openness to reinstating these techniques, saying in another Al Jazeera interview that he wouldn’t want to take anything off the table.
Flynn said, “Tactically, we can interrogate very effectively with the rules that we have currently in place, and I think that those are the things that President Trump would reexamine…I am a believer in leaving as many options on the table up until the last possible minute…”
And when asked if he supports Donald Trump’s threat to kill the families of terrorists, Flynn responded, “I would have to see the circumstances of that situation.”
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