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The questions Michael Flynn refused to answer come into focus

“General Flynn, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power in the United States?” It wasn't a trick question, but Michael Flynn wouldn't answer it.


When it comes to understanding what transpired on Jan. 6, there are few potential witnesses more knowledgeable than Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s disgraced former White House national security adviser.

As we’ve discussed, Flynn, for example, attended a December 2020 meeting in the Oval Office in which participants discussed declaring a national emergency as part of a scheme to keep Trump in power despite his defeat. The retired general also reportedly raised the prospect of deploying U.S. troops, seizing voting machines, and declaring martial law as part of an apparent coup attempt.

Yesterday, however, Flynn’s importance grew. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Donald Trump instructed Mark Meadows, his then-chief of staff, to contact both Roger Stone and Flynn on Jan. 5, and Meadows followed those instructions.

What did they discuss? For now, only the participants know for sure.

Given all of this, it’s not surprising that Jan. 6 investigators subpoenaed Flynn, but as we learned in March, he refused to cooperate, repeatedly pleading the Fifth. What we did not know, however, is what questions led Flynn to express concerns about self-incrimination. New York magazine summarized:

During the hearing, the January 6 panel played a clip from former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s deposition in which he paused for one minute and 36 seconds when asked if he felt the violence on January 6 was justified, then repeatedly pleaded the Fifth.

In a hearing filled with memorable moments, this stood out. Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the bipartisan panel, was shown asking Flynn, via online conferencing, asking, “General Flynn, do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified?” After a 106-second delay in which Flynn conferred with counsel, the retired general wouldn’t answer.

“Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified morally?” Cheney asked. “Take the Fifth,” Flynn replied.

“Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified legally?” Cheney asked. “Fifth,” Flynn replied.

“General Flynn, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America?” Cheney asked. “The Fifth,” he responded.

Remember, we’re talking about a retired three-star general who served as the White House national security adviser in 2017. Asked whether he believes in the peaceful transition of power in the United States, Flynn apparently felt that his answer might be used against him.

As jarring as this was, let’s also not forget that as far as his former boss is concerned, Flynn may yet be welcomed back into public service. In April 2020, during his re-election campaign, Trump told reporters that he was open to bringing Flynn back in a second term. Asked specifically if he might invite Flynn into his administration, the then-president replied, “I would certainly consider it, yeah. I would. I think he’s a fine man.”

Two weeks later, then-Vice President Mike Pence added that he, too, would be on board with bringing Flynn back into government.

Several months later, Flynn was the beneficiary of one of Trump’s most brazenly corrupt pardons.

It was against this backdrop that he soon after sat down with the Jan. 6 committee and pleaded the Fifth rather than share his opinion about the peaceful transition of power.