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Critics worry after Trump security chief fuels conspiracies


    K.T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Adviser for President-elect Donald Trump, right, watched as Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for National Security adviser, center, took a selfie with Sukhwinder Sangha of Vancouver, Canada, left, at Trump Tower, Monday, in New York.

WASHINGTON » On issues of national security and intelligence, no one is likely to have more influence in Donald Trump’s White House than retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

Yet Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser, has gained prominence in Republican politics by fueling conspiracy theories and Islamophobic rhetoric that critics warn could create serious distractions — or alienate allies and embolden enemies — if it continues.

“His job is to ensure that the White House is focused at all times on all of the threats that the United States faces abroad,” said Julianne Smith, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. She said she was “deeply troubled” by a Flynn tendency to promote fake news stories on his Twitter feed.

“You don’t want to have a distracted national security adviser,” said Smith, who now directs the strategy and statecraft program at the Center for a New American Security.

She was among several national security experts who raised concerns Tuesday about Flynn’s willingness to share bad intelligence on a social media feed as he prepares to move to the West Wing.

Flynn served until 2014 as the head of U.S. military intelligence. Although he left that job over disputes with the Obama administration over policy and his management of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he is widely regarded as a top intelligence officer, a job that requires an understanding of the power of disinformation.

The issue of sharing fake news was highlighted when Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, tweeted about the false idea that prompted a shooting at a Washington pizza parlor. He had been promoting a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s allies had been operating a secret pedophilia ring in the restaurant and noted it would remain a story until “proven to be false.”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence acknowledged Tuesday that the younger Flynn was helping his father with scheduling and administrative items during the presidential transition but told CNN “that’s no longer the case.”

Asked repeatedly whether a security clearance was requested, Pence refused to answer directly. “Whatever the appropriate paperwork was to assist him in that regard, Jake, I’m sure was taking place,” he said.

Trump’s team did not clarify whether Michael Flynn Jr.’s departure from Trump’s transition team was related to the tweets.

Less than a week before the election, the elder Flynn tweeted a link to a story that falsely claimed Clinton emails contained proof of money laundering and sex crimes with children, among other illegal activities. The incoming national security adviser called the baseless story a “must read” and instructed his followers: “U decide.”

Flynn also promoted conspiracy theorists, some of them white supremacists, throughout the campaign even as he emerged as Trump’s highest profile national security adviser.

He encouraged his followers to read a book by Mike Cernovich, whose website has suggested Clinton’s campaign chairman was part of a “sex cult with connections to human trafficking.” Flynn also tagged white nationalist Jared Wyand, whose website is popular with “alt-right” followers.

Flynn’s appointment is not subject to Senate confirmation.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Tuesday that Flynn’s willingness to promote fake news “raises profound questions about his suitability for this important position.”

Trump’s team did not respond to questions about Flynn’s social media activity. Pence praised Flynn more broadly on Tuesday, even as he distanced the incoming administration from Flynn’s son.

“We are so grateful and honored to have Gen. Flynn as our nominee for national security adviser. He brings an extraordinary wealth of experience,” Pence said.

The role of national security adviser has varied by administration, but usually centers on coordinating the policy positions of the secretaries of state and defense, the attorney general and other members of a president’s team.

It is an especially important position because of the national security adviser’s access to the president in the West Wing of the White House. Flynn’s office will be steps away from the Oval Office, proximity that allows him to act as a gatekeeper on a wide range of issues, including matters of war and peace as well as diplomacy and intelligence.

He is expected to have more direct access to the president than national security officials in the Cabinet. Aside from attending Trump’s daily intelligence briefings and senior staff meetings, Flynn will also oversee the National Security Council, a White House department that has grown to about 400 people involved in making policy recommendations.

Flynn, who turns 58 in December, served for more than three decades in the Army.

“If the national security adviser is going to be the direct conduit between the president and the national security world, of course it’s a concern that that adviser is being taken in by conspiracy theories and fake news,” said Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where Flynn obtained a master’s in national security and strategic studies in 2001.

Whoever has the president’s ear on international affairs, Nichols said, should have “a firm grip on what’s true and what’s false.”

AP writers Julie Pace and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island contributed to this report.

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  • Flynn was fired from his job as head of the Defense Intellegence Agency for mismanagement and believing conspiracy theories. He is as unstable as Donald Trump.

    • agree and I am so sick of all the phony and fake news surrounding Trump. He is a silly, inept, dangerous man. Be prepared to suffer for the next 4 years before he is thrown out.

        • Speaking of Putin; Viewing on Netflix, (Putin’s Hidden Treasure) just released (2014). He’s considered at the time of it’s release, to be Europe’s wealthiest person; in excess of 40+billion. Short condensed 29 minute program which shows how he got there. Bottom line of which the program says that if ever Russia selects a new Leader, Putin is going to have to answer a lot of heated questions from the legislative Russian Congress. Which is why he struggles to maintain political power as long as he can.

        • Another documentary on Netflix, (Goldman Sachs: Bank That Runs The World) released, (2012). Man, this

      • Allie, we’ve given you numerous chances. Don’t you think the Trumpster is owed at least 1 chance. He has not even started working and already you’ve turned him into your worst nightmare.
        I’m not saying you are wrong, but to comment the way you did is like the Pot calling the Kettle black.

        • Actually, she seems right on that one. But, yes, even racists should be given an opportunity to redeem themselves.

        • Hey! trump has already been an insult to intelligence and to the American people. Yes, I will give him a chance but I hold out no hope for him. He is done in 4 years. Republicans want him gone as much as anyone else. he is no conservative.

        • allie : republicans are to scared to stop Trump…they are afraid of his BASE and are getting in line to PROTECT their neck come next election…Trump can’t insult the collective ignorance of AMERICA!!! We not that smart…#MAGA

    • Too bad you believe in conspiracy and fake news issued by the mainstream media. Flynn was indeed forced out but “mismanagement” is a very broad label that can be applied to anyone, thus it is incumbent upon you to research what the “mismanagement” consisted of. Do your due diligence.

        • Not fit to lead according to whose opinion?? By Obama who refused to use the term Islamic terrorists? Do your homework before offering your uninformed opinion.

        • Do your HOMEWORK and come up with the answer that d_bullfigher WANTS is what he means. #MAGA

        • No juris, do your own homework and see if I agree. If I disagree, I will plainly tell you why. I suggest you do the same lest you be too lazy to think.

      • I’d rather believe in the main stream media than Trump’s news releases coming out of Twitter and the social media. That’s where the fake news and conspiracy are coming out.

      • With the likes of his son, who peddles in conspiracy theories, Flynn cannot be much different than his son, when his son is at his side and scheduling all his appointments. Like father, like son!

    • More likely Obama fired him because he advocated stronger action against Islamic terrorists. Obama won’t even acknowledge they exist much less take action against them. Instead he has chosen to indirectly arm Islamic terrorists fighting to overthrow Assad in Syria. Thank god Trump will put a stop to this ill-advised aid and regime change policies of the Obama administration. Every Muslim regime Obama helped to remove in the last 7 years were replaced by sunni muslim extremists even worse than the dictators they replaced.

      • Did you read about Softbank, a $100 billion joint venture by the Saudis and the Japanese investing in our tech industries. The Saudis have been spreading their extreme form of Islam all over the world, taken up by groups like Al Quaeda, and ISIS, and funding many of the groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan. Trump is also cozying up to Assad, Putin and the Russians as they bomb the Syrians in Aleppo into smithereens.

  • Mad Dog Mattis should be in Flynn’s role. Hopefully, Mattis who is a smart, level headed 4 star general, can keep Flynn under control. Flynn has a bad reputation in military circles– the feeling is he has a loose screw. This has come from those who knew him in the Army War college. Trump would have done better with generals like Petreus, Kelly, and McChristal.

    • Y’all still fixated on Hillary? Lol. The repugs did a good job with all the useless hearings. Trump will never put her in jail. Promise#1 broken. So sad for the under educated.

    • IRT coyote: I agree…seems that SA has gone over to SUPPORT Trump…MEDIA is painting his advisors and cabinet to look SO BAD makes TRUMP look good in COMPARISON…The fix is in!!! #MAGA

  • The message being sent is that if you post fake stories AND it results in an incident like a shooting at a pizza joint, you’ll be fired. But if you post fake stories without any incident, then it’s okay. Way to go Trump.

  • “Islamophobic rhetoric”

    When I got to this bit of sleazy rhetoric I stopped reading

    It is a sleazy way to make two statements, sneaking in the second with the first:
    1. Someone said something critical about some people who practice Islam or some aspects of the faith
    2. People who say something critical about Islam have an irrational fear of it, i.e. have a phobia

  • I wonder how the Liberals would react to a burka ban here in the US. France already has banned wearing a burka in public and now Germany might follow suit by banning it in certain situations.

    • A country where each side NEEDS to be right…and the other side NEEDS to be wrong…Where BOTH sides make no sense to the other and BOTH sides don’t seem to TRUST each other…A country where we increasingly forget that “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” #MAGA

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