September 16, 2021

Disgraced retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn is endorsing candidates for office.

Flynn advised former president Trump’s 2016 campaign and was Trump’s first national security adviser. He served for just 22 days before having to resign after news broke that he had lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. 

Flynn pleaded guilty to "willfully and knowingly" lying to the FBI but withdrew the plea two weeks before sentencing. Then–attorney general William Barr directed the Department of Justice to drop all charges against Flynn before former president Donald Trump pardoned him on November 25, 2020. 

Just days later, Flynn retweeted a news release from a right-wing Ohio group called “We the People Convention.” That release contained a petition asking Trump to declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, silence the media, and have the military “oversee a national re-vote” of the 2020 election. The petition ended by calling on Trump “to boldly act to save our nation…. We will also have no other choice but to take matters into our own hands, and defend our rights on our own, if you do not act within your powers to defend us.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley immediately opposed Flynn’s suggestion. He distanced the military from talk of a coup. “Our military is very very capable… we are determined to defend the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “No one should doubt that.” A defense official told Military Times that the idea of Trump declaring martial law and having the military redo the election is “insane in a year that we didn’t think could get anymore insane.”

But Trump did not back down. On December 2, he released a video he said was “maybe the most important speech I’ve ever made.” It was a 46-minute rant insisting that, despite all evidence to the contrary, he won the 2020 election. While he lost virtually every court challenge he mounted and his own attorney general, William Barr, said there was no evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the election, Trump insisted that there was “massive” voter fraud and called on the Supreme Court to “do what’s right for our country,” including throwing out hundreds of thousands of Democratic votes so “I very easily win in all states.”

Flynn had been an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy, taking an oath to it on July 4, 2020. On January 8, 2021, Twitter permanently banned Flynn, along with others who were promoting the views of the QAnon conspiracy that Trump actually won the 2020 election.  

But, far from disappearing, Flynn has continued to speak to pro-Trump groups and to rebuild his brand, going so far in May as to call for a coup in the U.S. like that happening in Myanmar, where in February the military seized power from the democratically elected government. 

Flynn appears to be regaining ground among Trump loyalists. Yesterday, in Michigan, he endorsed a Republican candidate for secretary of state, the official in charge of elections. The candidate, Kristina Karamo, tweeted that she was honored to receive the endorsement of Flynn, whom she called “a victim of political persecution” who “continues to fight fearlessly for [America]. His selflessness, wisdom, and kindness encourages us all.”

Today, Flynn endorsed Eric Greitens for a Missouri senate seat. Greitens resigned from the Missouri governorship in 2018, after accusations that he had threatened and assaulted an affair partner and suggestions that he had used an email list from a nonprofit for his political campaign. Greitens resigned in disgrace but is trying to relaunch his political career as a Trump supporter, running for the Senate seat of retiring Missouri Senator Roy Blunt. Greitens has picked up the endorsements of a number of Trump loyalists, although he has not yet received the endorsement of Trump, despite courting it quite eagerly. 

In his announcement of support for Greitens, Flynn made a play for the leadership of the MAGA movement by attacking the Republicans who refused to get on board with Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. 

His announcement played off Tuesday’s news that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who had opposed his talk of a military coup to keep Trump in office, had reassured his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not attack without provocation and notice despite the former president’s erratic and dangerous behavior during the last weeks of his term. Trump Republicans are demanding Milley’s resignation, but their determination to undermine Milley by portraying him as a tool of what they are calling the “radical left” has been evident for a while. In the spring, Republican lawmakers complained that, as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn [the military] into pansies.” Milley defended the idea that it is important “for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read” and said, “I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it.” Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson called him “a pig” and “stupid.”

In his message endorsing Greitens, Flynn brought these themes together and seemed to be trying to advance his own future in the government in place of Trump: “America needs fighters,” he said. “Worse than the radical leftists, the corrupt Deep State, the mainstream media, and Big Tech are the feckless and spineless Republicans who have utterly surrendered…. [T]hose who betrayed President Trump the most were not the leftists but the cowardly Republicans in Name Only…. We don’t need any more insiders or career politicians in Washington, especially not those with ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” an apparent reference to Milley’s calls with his counterpart in China. Flynn applauded Greitens’ suggestion that the 2020 election was stolen, and then said he was proud to stand with Greitens “in our shared mission to revive our Republic.”

Flynn seems to be trying to pick up Trump's falling mantle as the former president himself appears to be losing relevance. 

In Tuesday’s recall election in California, Democrats framed the choice as one between Governor Gavin Newsom and his Trump-like chief rival, and voters resoundingly rejected the Republican. Even among Trump’s usual base, his appeal seems to be fading. According to sportswriter Dan Rafael, who specializes in boxing, sources have told him that the September 11 fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort—the fight Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., commented on—garnered only about 150,000 pay-per-view buys, which means it grossed about $7.5 million. This is, Rafael says “a massive $ loser…not remotely close to covering even the purses, not to mention rest of expenses.”

Flynn’s attempt to reinsert himself into American politics is a story that I’m watching, but the bigger news today is coming out of China, where the country’s second-largest property developer, China Evergrande Group, is tottering. Evergrande has assets of $355 billion; it employs 200,000 staff members and hires about 3.8 million people a year for its different projects. 

The slowing property markets in China and a government crackdown on reckless borrowing have weakened the huge entity. Its collapse would destabilize Chinese banks. People worried about the safety of their investments, and vendors worrying they will not be paid have begun to protest outside the company’s main headquarters; they have been removed by security. Observers expect the Chinese government will help to manage any forthcoming collapse, but the ripples from such a failure will likely be felt around the world.

Notes:

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/twitter-bans-michael-flynn-sidney-powell-qanon-account-purge-n1253550

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-eric-greitens-endorsement/2021/07/22/9e9998a2-e8c0-11eb-97a0-a09d10181e36_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/03/23/eric-greitens-senate-governor-affair/

https://taskandpurpose.com/pentagon-run-down/tucker-carlson-military-mark-milley/

https://www.businessinsider.com/tucker-carlson-white-rage-clip-video-fox-news-general-milley-2021-6

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/21/conservative-critics-military-policies-490197

https://taskandpurpose.com/news/mark-milley-critical-race-theory/

https://themissouritimes.com/greitens-endorsed-by-michael-flynn/

https://thehill.com/homenews/media/556209-michael-flynn-says-myanmar-like-coup-should-happen-in-the-us

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/kinzinger-republican-political-points-milley

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/twitter-bans-michael-flynn-sidney-powell-qanon-account-purge-n1253550

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/07/to-celebrate-the-fourth-michael-flynn-posts-a-pledge-to-conspiracy-group-qanon/

https://www.reuters.com/business/how-china-evergrandes-debt-troubles-pose-systemic-risk-2021-09-16/?s=03

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/10/business/evergrande-debt-crisis.html?s=03

https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/9/16/protestors-hauled-away-from-evergrande-hq-as-meltdown-fears-mount

https://www.reuters.com/article/china-evergrande-debt-contagion-idCNL4N2QG1T9

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