As Mueller Closed in, Pressure Mounted on Flynn and Family - NBC Bay Area
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's presidency

As Mueller Closed in, Pressure Mounted on Flynn and Family

People close to Flynn described to The Associated Press the pressures of the past year as investigators with special counsel Robert Mueller not only zeroed in on him but also intensely examined the dealings of one of his sons

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Flynn Pleads Guilty to Making False Statements to FBI

    Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to a count of making false statements to the FBI. He is the fourth person charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. (Published Friday, Dec. 1, 2017)

    In the days before he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and as he braced for the public revelation that he'd morphed from government target to government cooperator, Michael Flynn was reveling in the pleasures of a new grandchild, swapping cheerful observations about babies with a longtime friend and fellow grandfather. 

    At the same time, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser also was lamenting the emotional toll of the criminal investigation he was facing, another friend recalls. 

    Flynn made clear "he was tired of the constant barrage of either people trying to contact him and his family, or the press and the coverage they were getting. He was ready for that to be over," said Thomas A. Heaney Jr., a retired Army colonel who has known Flynn since childhood and spoke to him two days before the guilty plea last month. 

    People close to Flynn described to The Associated Press the pressures of the past year as investigators with special counsel Robert Mueller not only zeroed in on him but also intensely examined the dealings of one of his sons, Michael G. Flynn. The conversations offer a window into his thinking in the period before he entered his plea, which requires him to cooperate with Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with Trump's campaign. 

    Trump: 'I Feel Badly for General Flynn'

    [NATL] Trump: 'I Feel Badly for General Flynn'

    President Donald Trump defended his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last week, as the president prepared to travel to Utah on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Trump also said that his former Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, had lied to the FBI without consequence, although he provided no evidence. In July 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey testified about Clinton to Congress that the bureau had “no basis to conclude that she lied to the FBI.”

    (Published Monday, Dec. 4, 2017)

    A chance to end the case through a single-count guilty plea was almost certainly the most favorable outcome possible, especially since the aggressive, wide-ranging nature of Mueller's inquiry made criminal prosecution a near-inevitability and a tough prison sentence a vivid possibility. Even before Mueller's appointment, the FBI had been investigating Flynn's conduct, including his conversations with the Russian ambassador and payments from a Turkish businessman for lobbying work. 

    In an indication of the value of his cooperation, prosecutors charged him only with false statements and set a guideline range of zero to 6 months in prison. His son, who had a baby last spring and worked alongside his father on the Turkish lobbying and other matters during the campaign, was notably not charged. 

    Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, declined to comment for this story. 

    The pressure on Flynn, 58, and his family was evident as prosecutors made him central to their investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign. He was the first White House official charged in the inquiry. A legal defense fund was formed to defray costs. And a cascade of negative headlines, some for conduct never proven or charged and in some instances strenuously denied, torpedoed the reputation of a retired Army lieutenant general who a few years earlier had led combat zone military intelligence efforts. 

    After admitting guilt, Flynn, one of nine children from a close Rhode Island family, issued a statement saying his plea and cooperation "reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country." 

    It's clear the publicity had taken a toll. 

    Trump on Campaign Spying Claim: ‘I Want Total Transparency’

    [NATL] Trump on Campaign Spying Claim: ‘I Want Total Transparency’

    President Donald Trump said he wants “total transparency” from the Department of Justice on whether the FBI spied on his campaign for political reasons.

    (Published Wednesday, May 23, 2018)

    "He wanted all of this to stop," Heaney says. "If there were no bounds, if people were going to continue to make unsubstantiated claims against him and the things he had done, he was tired of it." 

    As a parent, Heaney added, "you're always looking to take care of your children" and "under these circumstances, Mike pretty much would want to be able to shield his family and I think that's part of what he's doing here." 

    Michael Ledeen, another close friend who co-authored with Flynn, "The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies," said Flynn seemed delighted after Thanksgiving about the birth of Flynn Jr.'s baby. But Ledeen also detected stress, saying Flynn told him his wife's mother was ill and how he was planning to sell his home in the Washington area to move to Rhode Island. 

    "He said it was a terrible time for him," Ledeen said. 

    Though it's not clear what information Flynn is prepared to provide, his cooperation with Mueller could cause a fissure in a relationship with Trump that had been strong. 

    Rocky Kempenaar, a childhood friend who said he saw Flynn in November, said he warned him months earlier to be careful about Trump. 

    GOP to Review FBI Informant Documents Without Dems

    [NATL] GOP to Review FBI Informant Documents Without Dems

    The White House has arranged a briefing between intelligence officials and two top Republicans to look at classified documents about a confidential FBI informant who made contact with the Trump campaign. No Democrats were invited, and the White House is defending the decision to exclude them.

     

    (Published Wednesday, May 23, 2018)

    "Just be careful, Mike. I don't want you to get into trouble," Kempenaar said he told him. "He said, 'Rock, what surprised me is how loyal of a guy he is.'" 

    "You got to be one in a million, because I don't know anyone else he's been loyal to," Kempenaar said he replied. "He just laughed." 

    The guilty plea marked a stunning fall for Flynn, a career Army man who enjoyed a prestigious job as a military intelligence officer in Afghanistan and Iraq and was rewarded in 2012 with a post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military's spy organization. He lasted two years, criticized by Obama administration officials for his management and temperament, and was forced to retire in 2014. 

    Flynn's post-military career was a succession of consulting jobs and small defense contractor directorships. But his profile shot higher as a Trump campaign surrogate, where he led the Republican National Convention crowd in anti-Hillary Clinton "lock her up" chants, something Kempenaar said Flynn now regrets. 

    His selection as Trump's national security adviser, a position that requires synthesizing different policy options for the president's consideration, surprised some former colleagues from Afghanistan, who recall him as stubborn, opinionated and polarizing. 

    "He was like the bad boy in 7th grade. You really want to be on his team because it's really fun, and it's kind of transgressive," said Sarah Chayes, who worked in Afghanistan as a foreign policy adviser. "If you're a really good teacher, you want that kid in the class because it adds a really interesting dynamic. But it means you have to be totally on top of him and rein him in." 

    WH Doubles Down on Trump's 'Animals' Remark at Roundtable

    [NATL] WH Doubles Down on Trump's 'Animals' Comment at California Sanctuary Policies Roundtable

    President Donald Trump railed against immigration policies adopted by so-called sanctuary cities at a White House roundtable Wednesday, bemoaning a California law that restricts local and state cooperation with U.S. Customs and Enforcement agents and calling some immigrants "animals." White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on the comments, saying the president's language was not tough enough. 

    (Published Thursday, May 17, 2018)

    Flynn has kept a low-profile since his White House ouster in February, which came as officials said he had misled them about conversations with the Russian ambassador. He's split time between northern Virginia and Rhode Island, where's he's been spotted surfing on a beach near where he grew up. He still enjoys the support of old friends, who see him as an administration scapegoat. 

    "The Flynn I know is a truth-teller," said Ledeen, who hopes his friend can "continue to play a role in policy discussions and in understanding the world because he's a person who revolutionized American military intelligence." 

    It's not clear what his future holds, but friends who've seen him in the past month say he seems determined to end the scrutiny and move on. 

    Two days before he walked into a Washington courtroom, Flynn changed his Facebook cover photo, for the first time in months, to a potentially hopeful image: a rising sun over the Atlantic Ocean. 

    Associated Press writer Chad Day in Washington contributed.