Flashback: Inside Michael Flynn’s Fast Fall

Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to Donald Trump, in a still that appeared in FRONTLINE's documentary, "Trump's Showdown."

Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to Donald Trump, in a still that appeared in FRONTLINE's documentary, "Trump's Showdown."

December 5, 2018

Michael Flynn was one of President-Elect Donald Trump’s first appointments.

Just a month into Trump’s presidency, though, the national security adviser became the first major member of the administration to depart, following revelations about a phone call he had during the transition with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

That phone call, which had been electronically monitored by the FBI, took place on the same day in 2016 when then-President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for interfering in the election. Flynn would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about the call, becoming one of the first people to be charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He agreed to cooperate with Mueller under a plea agreement in which he could be sentenced up to six months in prison and fined as much as $9,500. 

On Dec. 4, 2018, a court filing by Mueller shed new light on how Flynn has worked with the special counsel’s investigation since his December 2017 plea. The memo — which also outlined false statements by Flynn to the Department of Justice about his relationship with Turkey — recommended that the retired United States Army lieutenant general be sentenced to minimal or no prison time, saying that he “deserves credit for accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government” in the months since. A highly redacted addendum to the memo said that Flynn had helped the government with several investigations, including the Russia probe, and done 19 interviews with the special counsel’s office or other Department of Justice offices.

In the October 2018 documentary Trump’s Showdown, FRONTLINE went inside the evolution of the president’s battle with the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the special counsel — including by examining Trump’s relationship with Flynn, and how the events surrounding Flynn’s exit from the administration unfolded.

As the below excerpt recounts, Flynn’s harsh rhetoric about Hillary Clinton had endeared him to Trump and his supporters during the campaign.

“He became a very trusted and close confidante of not just of President Trump, but President Trump’s family,” J.D. Gordon, a former national security and foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, told FRONTLINE.

So when it became apparent in the early days of Trump’s presidency that Flynn was in the FBI’s cross-hairs, and that both the agency and the highest levels of the Justice Department believed he had lied about his conversation with Kislyak, the news felt like a serious blow to the new president.

Go inside the chain of events that followed — including the president’s fateful, one-on-one sit-down with then-FBI Director James Comey — in this excerpt from Trump’s Showdown:

For more, stream Trump’s Showdown in full, online.

Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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