Until Wednesday, the son of President Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser was probably best known for getting canned from the White House transition team for promoting the bogus “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.
But the son of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn burst back into the spotlight with NBC News’ report that he is a “subject” of the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. That report casts a new light on the years Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, spent working alongside his father, serving as chief of staff for his consulting firm and as his right-hand man during Trump’s campaign and transition.
In this dual role, Flynn’s son was both a cheerleader for the campaign and closely involved in his father’s sensitive foreign business dealings, accompanying him on a 2015 trip to Russia and assisting with a Turkish lobbying deal that initially brought his father under federal scrutiny. Unraveling the exact details of this father-son working relationship could be critical to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
One area of interest for Mueller, according to NBC, is the younger Flynn’s work for Flynn Intel Group, the Virginia-based intelligence consulting firm that his father founded in 2014. Earlier this year, the firm retroactively registered as a foreign agent after carrying out a $530,000 lobbying contract in the thick of the 2016 campaign for a businessman with close ties to the Turkish government. Flynn’s son was paid $12,000 over a three-month period for “administrative support” for his work on the Turkey project, according to the firm’s March 2017 filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Flynn’s son also accompanied him on a December 2015 trip to Moscow to attend a gala hosted by Kremlin-funded news outlet RT, where his father was seated at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin. The elder Flynn was paid $34,000 to speak at the event, and RT also paid for both of the Flynns’ airfare and three-night stay at a luxury hotel, according to NBC.
Flynn only disclosed that payment, as well as thousands of dollars in speaking fees he received from two other Russian companies, after he was ousted from the White House for lying about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. RT announced this week that its U.S. arm was told to register under FARA for pushing Russian government propaganda.
Just months after the Moscow trip, Flynn formally joined the Trump campaign as a top adviser and surrogate, and he brought his son along for the ride. Flynn’s son sometimes traveled on the trail and heavily promoted Trump on his social media accounts, alongside links to dubiously sourced far-right sites pushing conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton. He also advocated a softer line towards the Kremlin, tweeting in March 2016 that “we have no choice when it comes to working with Russia” and that failure to do so would force the U.S. to “go to war.”
When Flynn was floated as a possible vice presidential pick in May 2016, it was his son who fielded press requests, telling CNN his father planned to “let the process play itself out.”
Both Flynns also figured prominently in a GOP activist’s alleged scheme to obtain emails he believed Russian operatives had hacked from Hillary Clinton’s private server. In recruiting emails to computer security experts later provided to the Wall Street Journal, veteran GOP opposition researcher Peter W. Smith claimed that Michael T. Flynn, his son, and Flynn Intel Group were assisting with his effort.
At least one of the cybersecurity experts contacted by Smith said that he seemed to have a close relationship with the Flynns and intimate knowledge of the Trump campaign’s inner workings.
“Although it wasn’t initially clear to me how independent Smith’s operation was from Flynn or the Trump campaign, it was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well,” Matt Tait wrote in a LawFare blog post recounting his interactions with the 81-year-old Smith, who committed suicide shortly after the Journal’s story was published.
Flynn’s son declined the Journal’s request for comment on the scheme.
Clinton’s emails were a fixation for the younger Flynn, and he tweeted about them frequently in the run-up to the 2016 election. It was that overactive online presence that ultimately brought his relationship with the Trump team to an end.
Though Flynn’s son stopped by Trump Tower with his father after the Nov. 8 election and had an official transition email address, Vice President-elect Mike Pence tried to argue that he had no official role after his incendiary tweets became a focus of media attention. They included links to stories alleging that Clinton aide Huma Abedin was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was a closeted homosexual who used cocaine.
The younger Flynn’s promotion of “Pizzagate,” a bizarre conspiracy theory that posited that Clinton aides were running a child sex trafficking ring from a Washington, D.C. pizza place, prompted the transition team to formally sever ties in early December.
At the time, a source told the New York Times that the “Pizzagate” tweets cost Flynn’s son a White House job. The source said that he planned to join his father’s National Security Council and had even started the process of obtaining a security clearance.
The subsequent federal investigation into his father and, reportedly, himself, has not inspired the younger Flynn to abandon his social media activities. In the past 24 hours alone, Flynn’s son has fired off a volley of tweets about politicians engaging in pedophilia and, of course, Clinton.