- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s son, who came under fire Sunday for peddling a conspiracy theory linked to an armed incident in Washington, has been actively involved in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team efforts, Foreign Policy has learned.
Michael Flynn Jr., the son of the man Trump picked to be his national security adviser, has assisted in personnel vetting, managing his father’s schedule, and fielding transition-related emails for the general, according to a person close to the Trump transition team. “He also accompanies his dad to a ton of meetings,” said the individual.
In photographs, Flynn Jr. has been pictured joining his father to meetings at Trump Tower in New York in November and walking with Trump himself backstage. On Monday, CNN reported that Flynn has an official email account with the transition team.
With his son peddling falsehoods while apparently helping set up the Trump administration, Gen. Flynn’s nomination as national security adviser could become even more controversial. Gen. Flynn has himself promoted groundless conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, and has suggested that China orchestrated the rise of radical Islamist militants.
Flynn Jr. has for months propagated conspiracy theories, explicit content, and racially-charged materials on Twitter and Facebook. But scrutiny of his social media trail spiked on Sunday after one of the theories he propagated — ‘#pizzagate,’ a baseless rumor that a Washington, D.C. pizzeria aligned with HIllary Clinton doubles as a child sex-trafficking ring — became deadly serious.
On Sunday, local police arrested a North Carolina man and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon after he walked into a Washington, D.C. restaurant with an assault rifle and fired at least one shot. The man told police he came to “self-investigate” a rumor that Clinton and her chief of staff were running a child sex ring out of the restaurant. No one was injured in the incident, though it caused a panic and nearby businesses went into lockdown as police inundated the neighborhood.
The rumor, propagated by right-wing blogs, Trump supporters and users of the websites 4chan and Reddit, has long since been debunked. But Flynn Jr. continued to propagate it on Sunday even after the dangerous incident.
“Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story,” Flynn Jr. tweeted after the shooting incident. “The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it.”
Trump spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment about Flynn Jr.’s Sunday tweet or his involvement in the transition team.
For several weeks, the restaurant Comet Ping Pong and its employees have been threatened on social media after fake news stories claimed that the restaurant doubled as a human trafficking ring. In the past, even Flynn, the retired general, has shared stories on Twitter involving baseless anti-Clinton pedophilia rumors. The stories targeting Comet Ping Pong resulted in a wave of online threats against the restaurant, forcing the owner to contact the FBI and local police in an effort to remove the Facebook posts and Twitter comments from the internet. D.C. police have repeatedly said the restaurant is not under investigation.
Flynn Jr.’s remarks about ‘#pizzagate’ aren’t the first of his social media postings to raise eyebrows. Last month, CNN reported that Flynn Jr. has also shared stories alleging that Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, has a connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sen. Marco Rubio is a closeted homosexual with a cocaine problem.
In 2012, he lambasted supporters of President Barack Obama on Twitter. “Unfortunately, only reason minorities voted for BO is the color of his skin and NOT for the issues….#Election2012,” Flynn Jr. wrote, and then later deleted.
In Facebook posts and on Twitter, he has also labeled Obama, Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Saturday Night Live as “communists,” while referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as socialists.
On Monday afternoon, 53 left-leaning advocacy and non-profit groups demanded Trump to rescind his nomination of Flynn, calling the retired three-star general “unfit to be national security adviser.” The letter criticizes Flynn for propagating “anti-Muslim conspiracy theories” and “anti-Semitic” remarks.