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Michael Flynn pleaded the Fifth when Liz Cheney asked him if he believed in the peaceful transfer of power. He once called it the ‘envy of the world.’

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn shakes hands with his predecessor, Susan Rice at the Passing The Baton conference in Washington, DC on January 10, 2017.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

  • Flynn declined to answer when asked under oath whether he believes in the peaceful transition of power.
  • But in 2017, he spoke glowingly of the American tradition, calling it the “envy of the world.”
  • It’s a stunning reversal for the former National Security Advisor, who sought to help Trump overturn the election.

The January 6 committee revealed on Tuesday that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as former President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, declined to say whether he believes in the peaceful transfer of power.

Testifying under oath over Zoom while flanked by his lawyer, Flynn also pleaded the Fifth when asked by committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney whether the violence on January 6 was justified, either legally or morally.

But Flynn’s public position on the peaceful transfer of power was very different just a few years ago. 

Days before Flynn assumed the role of national security advisor in January 2017, he spoke glowingly of the tradition alongside his Democratic predecessor, Susan Rice, at a “Passing The Baton” luncheon at the United States Institute of Peace.

“The gravity of this moment is a bit overwhelming,” said Flynn in an address at the luncheon. “Transitions and transfers of power from one United States president to the next are historic, and this one is no exception.”

Flynn went on to recall the country’s first peaceful transfer of power.

“To me, one of the most significant moments in American history was at the very beginning, when President John Adams was not re-elected and had to hand the presidency over to his archrival, Thomas Jefferson,” he said. “It could have been a constitutional crisis, but it wasn’t. Why? Because we have a peaceful transition of power, and that is the tradition that has bound us all ever since.”

He also spoke about the importance of the country’s peaceful transfers of power as an example for the rest of the world.

“As a model to the world, at least in our history, the United States has set the standard for the peaceful transition of power, and it is a model that continues to be the envy of the world,” he said.

Flynn’s January 6 committee testimony is shocking for a high-ranking military official who served in the Obama administration and was entrusted with advising the president on national security matters.

But it’s also consistent with several of Flynn’s more recent stances, including publicly urging Trump to enact martial law in order to re-run the 2020 election and privately advocating that he seize voting machines in several states.

“I mean, it’s not unprecedented,” he said on Newsmax in December 2020. “These people are out there talking about martial law like it’s something that we’ve never done. Martial law has been instituted 64 times.”

Last year, Flynn told a crowd that there was “no reason” a military coup shouldn’t take place in the United States.

A spokesman for Flynn didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Flynn has long been a controversial figure. Obama fired him from his post as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 over policy differences and concerns with his management of the agency. Obama urged Trump not to hire Flynn when the two met in November 2016, just two days after Trump won the presidency.

Still, Trump went ahead and brought Flynn on in the top national security role. But it didn’t last long. Flynn was ousted as national security advisor less than a month into the administration after it was reported that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the US. 

It later emerged that Trump asked FBI director James Comey to drop the agency’s investigation of Flynn and his ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey in a private Oval Office meeting in early 2017, Comey wrote in a memo the FBI chief wrote soon after the February conversation. 

On his way out of office, Trump pardoned Flynn, erasing his two guilty pleas of making false statements and “any and all possible offenses” he may have committed associated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

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