National security advisers typically work in the shadows, but President-elect Donald Trump’s reported pick for the key job is more of a flame-thrower who has labeled the Muslim religion “sick” and called for Hillary Clinton to be thrown in prison.
Multiple news organizations reported Thursday evening that the incoming president has formally offered the job to Michael Flynn, the retired three-star Army general. Dismissed from the Pentagon’s top intelligence post in late 2014 for what his superiors called a too-contentious style, Flynn is also highly regarded in military and intelligence circles.
The Trump transition office confirmed the selection, and others, on Friday morning.
“I am pleased that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will be by my side as we work to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, navigate geopolitical challenges and keep Americans safe at home and abroad,” Trump said in a statement. “Gen. Flynn is one of the country’s foremost experts on military and intelligence matters and he will be an invaluable asset to me and my administration.”
The incoming national security adviser said in the same statement he is “deeply humbled and honored to accept the position.”
The hawkish Flynn’s own words show a career military officer who wants the United States to throw everything its military, intelligence and national security apparatus has at groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. That approach will provide a clear contrast to the Obama administration’s more measured strategy, which it contends “is destroying” ISIS.
Like many U.S. generals and military officers, Trump’s pick sees threats to the United States just about everywhere he looks. This worldview aligns with the president-elect’s, but it appears Flynn is much more interventionist than his future boss who has talked of untangling America from its overseas conflicts and commitments.
Flynn’s role as a top Trump campaign surrogate has broken norms for those who held the national security adviser job before him.
“Lock her up, that’s right,” Flynn said of Clinton at the Republican National Convention in July, agreeing with the chants from the crowd in Cleveland.
National security advisers also typically are not endorsed by former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke.
During his fiery RNC speech, Flynn raised eyebrows for panning the “incompetence” of the administration that fired him and for painting the world as a tinderbox at a time when some national security and foreign policy experts say U.S. interests are relatively secure.
“My message to you is very clear: Wake up America. There is no substitute for American leadership and exceptionalism,” Flynn said, almost screaming. “America should not fear our enemies.” He called Clinton a “clone” of Obama.
“Tonight, Americans stand as one with strength and confidence to overcome the last eight years of the Obama-Clinton failures, such as bumbling indecisiveness, willful ignorance and total incompetence that has challenged the very heart and soul of every American, and single-handedly brought continued mayhem, murder and destruction into our neighborhoods and onto the world’s streets,” Flynn said.
But the pick is more than a retired three-star general with an extensive intelligence background and knowledge of global threats, whom some have called “brilliant.” And though the post does not require Senate confirmation, Flynn brings baggage to the job and his selection is already fueling warnings from Trump critics that a band of racists, anti-Semites and Muslim-haters are headed to the West Wing.
In late July, Flynn shared a tweet from Twitter user @30PiecesofAG_, who had posted on the social media site: “>Cnn implicated. ‘The USSR is to blame!’ … Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore,” according to several media reports. (Flynn has since deleted that retweet.)
That Twitter incident came mere days after Flynn had another on July 14 when he tweeted, “In next 24 hours, I dare Arab & Persian world “leaders” to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick and must B healed.”
In next 24 hours, I dare Arab & Persian world “leaders” to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick and must B healed.
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) July 15, 2016
Such statements are very concerning to Democrats and some in the national security realm because the national security adviser is among the few senior staffers with ready access to the commander in chief. It is not uncommon for an individual in this post, created in 1946, to speak to the president multiple times per day — and that’s when things are relatively peaceful and U.S. interests aren’t at serious risk.
“Gen. Flynn has also made inflammatory remarks regarding Islam, and not always distinguished between a faith practiced by millions of Americans and important allies around the world, and the perversion of that faith by the likes of [the Islamic State] and al-Qaida,” House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff said late Thursday.
“These statements only feed jihadi propaganda by reinforcing their false narrative that the West is at war with all of Islam,” the California Democrat said.
Flynn has also been criticized for his alleged ties to Moscow, prompting Schiff to say he is “deeply concerned about his views on Russia, which over the last 12 months have demonstrated the same fondness for the autocratic and belligerent Kremlin which animate President-elect Trump’s praise of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”
Schiff and other Democrats believe Trump would be “best served by a national security adviser who brings a steady and thoughtful demeanor to the Oval Office and can help offset the potentially impulsive nature of the next president — these are not qualities readily apparent in observing Gen. Flynn over the last few years.”