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The Birth of a Fighter; Michael Flynn's Life in the Military. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 22:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN special report.


SCIUTTO: It was a precipitous fall.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Flynn charged with making false statements to the FBI.

SCIUTTO: General Michael Flynn, a decorated military commander and close Trump confidant, pleading guilty to a federal crime, and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The charge reveals Flynn wasn't acting alone in his talks to Russians.

SCIUTTO: How damaging could all this be for the president and those closest to him?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Russia investigation it is creeping closer to the president.

SCIUTTO: Bringing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation inside President Trump's innermost circle.


SCIUTTO: The man who taunted Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail with chants of lock her up.

FLYNN: Lock her up!


SCIUTTO: Now on the other side of those very same words.


SCIUTTO: The crushing downfall of President Trump's former national security adviser raises many new questions. Will Flynn's testimony put others in legal jeopardy? And could the probe now extend all the way to the president? For Flynn himself, it is one more dark day in a series of dark days

since the election. Fired after caught lying to the vice president, accused of failing to report his work for Turkish and Russian entities. Failing to report income from a Kremlin tied Russian propaganda network, and only now revealing his conversations with Russia's ambassador about several key national security issues.

And then, just days after pleading guilty, more potential scandal.


SCIUTTO: Allegations that during Trump's inaugural address, Michael Flynn was texting a business associate. The message, that his deal to join Russia in building nuclear reactors in the Middle East was, quote, "good to go."

And according to a whistleblower, Flynn suggested that sanctions on Russia would be ripped up under Trump. Could a once proud three-star general have been colluding with Russia?

Do you believe he was co-opted by the Russians?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't think he was during his time as DIA director, no.

SCIUTTO: Since then?

CLAPPER: I can't say.

SCIUTTO: Tonight, the mystery of Michael Flynn.

JASON HOWK, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: Definitely a guy who worked most of his life in the shadows, comes out of the shadows. He's only seen the light of the campaign. If you don't know him and you don't know his family, you're not going to know who he is.

SCIUTTO: It sounds like you're saying the world just doesn't really know Michael Flynn.

HOWK: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Michael Flynn's story begins 400 miles north of Washington, D.C., in the small seaside community of Middletown, Rhode Island.

TOM HEANEY, MICHAEL FLYNN'S CHILDHOOD FRIEND: We met actually playing Little League baseball.

SCIUTTO: Tom Heaney first met Flynn 50 years ago. He remembers Flynn as an adventurous kid, who loved surfing off of Rhode Island's sometimes treacherous coast.

HEANEY: We were always outside playing, we were at the beach swimming, surfing, outside playing for most of the year.

SCIUTTO: The Flynn family lived just steps from the beach. All 11 of them in this tiny house, with one bathroom. HEANEY: Organized chaos. There is a lot of folks and not a lot of


SCIUTTO: Michael Flynn, the sixth of nine children.

FLYNN: If there was one thing I learned growing up in a family of nine was to argue. You know, for a pair of socks or a pair of underwear, but to argue.

G. WAYNE MILLER, STAFF WRITER, THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL: There was always a scramble at the end of the day for a bed. There would be sometimes two kids sleeping in one bed. They had fold-up cots. They used couches and sofas.

SCIUTTO: G. Wayne Miller, a reporter for the Providence Journal who authored a long profile of Flynn, says at the edge of just 13, Flynn became a local hero, honored by the town council after he rescued two children in the path of a runaway car.

MILLER: It starts rolling down the hill. Michael observed at the bottom of this driveway, there were two other kids playing, and he ran to his friend and said, you get one, I'll get the other. And they pulled both of those kids out of the path of the car.

SCIUTTO: But there was another side to Michael Flynn, a daring side. A favorite pastime, cliff diving with his friend, Tom Heaney.

[22:05:03] HEANEY: There's half a dozen places that have between 15 and 30 foot drops. And then there's a few bridges you're not allowed to jump off of anymore that we used to do when we were kids.

SCIUTTO: The future army general admits that this adrenaline addiction sometimes got him into trouble.

FLYNN: You'll learn a little bit about me as a juvenile. Some cases a juvenile delinquent.

SCIUTTO: Flynn, writing in his book "The Field of Fight," quote, "some serious and unlawful activity by me and two of my co-hoodlum teenage friends would eventually lead to my arrest. The charges warranted a very unpleasant night in Socko - the state boy's reformatory. And a year of supervised probation."

MILLER: He came home to face the wrath of his parents, who did not appreciate what little Michael had done. He never did such a thing again.

SCIUTTO: Flynn would come to believe his early recklessness would later serve him well in the military as an intelligence officer, writing "Looking back, it was this turmoil and my own dangerous behavior as an adolescent, that led to my ability to get inside our enemy's heads."

For now, the maturing Michael Flynn became quite a presence in the halls of Middletown high school. MILLER: He is a very popular young man. He was voted class president.

He was a gifted natural athlete. He was respected by his teammates. He was considered a leader.

HEANEY: We were captains of our high school football team. We won the state championship our senior year.

SCIUTTO: But for Flynn, the first year of college was a challenge. At the University of Rhode Island, he nearly flunked out. His rescue would come in the form of an offer from the U.S. military, when a campus ROTC instructor saw something special in him.

MILLER: This instructor drops by his house and offered him a three- year scholarship on the condition that his grades come up, and he accepts.

SCIUTTO: Heaney joined Flynn in ROTC.

HEANEY: The leaders that we had were all Vietnam vets. They were teaching us how to become soldiers and more than that, become leaders.

SCIUTTO: Flynn and Heaney graduated and immediately embarked on their lengthy military careers. And by 1997, Flynn was commanding an army battalion at Fort Bragg. So well-liked that soldiers there dedicated a gazebo to him.

RON HILE, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: Michael Flynn was one of the most respected and admired leaders I've seen.

SCIUTTO: Retired command Sergeant Major Ron Hile served under Flynn at the time.

HILE: He like to get involved directly with what was happening. He liked to walk out and do things with the troops, road marches, training exercises, go to the classroom, stay in the barracks, spend time with the soldiers, get to know what they're doing, what they're thinking.

SCIUTTO: Next, Michael Flynn joins the battle in Iraq.


FLYNN: We're losing to guys that I facetiously described were wearing bathroom slippers and bathrobes.



SCIUTTO: Iraq, 2004. U.S. forces locked in deadly gun battles with insurgents on the streets of Fallujah.

JAMES KITFIELD, AUTHOR, TWILIGHT WARRIORS: We had stuck our head in a hornet's nest, and the hornets were biting. And that was an extremely scary place to be.






SCIUTTO: The U.S. military was under siege, and after a swift invasion, now faced with the stunning prospect of defeat.

STANLEY ALLEN MCCHRYSTAL, RETIRED UNITED STATES ARMY: All of the best laid plans weren't working, and Iraq was getting bad.

SCIUTTO: General Stanley McChrystal was commander of Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC, with a lethal mission, to kill or capture the terrorists.

MCCHRYSTAL: Al Qaeda was becoming much more effective than we had realized. They were owning terrain, and yet as we looked at our organization internally and we looked at the larger U.S. military in intelligence effort it was not operating and I needed.

KITFIELD: It was as bad as it could get. And we desperately needed someone to figure a way out.

SCIUTTO: McChrystal tapped Michael Flynn to be that someone for the Special Forces. Appointing him intelligence director at JSOC.


FLYNN: We were losing to guys that I facetiously described were wearing bathroom slippers and bathrobes.


SCIUTTO: Together, with McChrystal, Flynn would help revolutionize the way the military hunted the enemy.

Describe the kind of leader that he is.

MCCHRYSTAL: He will stand in front of a white board and he'll suddenly start writing. We used to laugh about it, because he almost can't keep up with his thoughts, and he would be writing real fast. I remember one night it's about three in the morning I came in and he's got about six or eight people in front of the white board he's going, stay with me.

KITFIELD: He was an innovator and maverick. Mike Flynn's great epiphany was, this needs to be as much an intelligence gathering operation as a gun shop.

SCIUTTO: James Kitfield wrote about the battlefield innovations and intelligence breakthroughs pioneered by Generals McChrystal, Flynn, and others in his book "Twilight Warriors." KITFIELD: He and Stanley McChrystal created a counterterrorism

juggernaut, the likes of which we've never seen.

SCIUTTO: That juggernaut depended first simply on team work, sharing intelligence across the military and Intel agencies.

You and he together and others revolutionized the way -- I mean, let's call a spade a spade -- killing bad guys there, right, going after the terror leadership in an enormously fast pace.

MCCHRYSTAL: What we really did and Mike was key in this, is we started to share information much more broadly. Everybody saw the big picture. Started to make with people who feel like part of the team.

SCIUTTO: Could you have done all that without Mike Flynn?

MCCHRYSTAL: I don't know. I would not have wanted to do it without Mike Flynn.

[22:14:59] SCIUTTO: U.S. Special Operations Forces were now conducting missions with unprecedented speed and stunning lethality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they started out in these wars they were launching maybe three or four strikes a night. By the time it was hitting their stride, they were launching scores in a night sometimes. The leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq had started dropping like flies.

SCIUTTO: No armchair general, Flynn himself joined some of those raids.

MICHAEL LEDEEN, CO-AUTHOR, THE FIELD OF FIGHT: He would go when there were raids, on suspected Al Qaeda and Iraq headquarters, for example, he would go himself. It's very unusual. But he's very unusual guy.


FLYNN: I sat this far or this close to members, senior members of Al Qaeda, trying to figure out what makes them tick.


SCIUTTO: Throughout one of their prime objectives was gaining information on the whereabouts of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarkawi. The breakthrough came with the detention of 12 insurgents.

MCCHRYSTAL: He captured 12 people on a mission. So we started to figure in this 12, we had much more potential intelligence than we thought.

SCIUTTO: Intelligence that would allow them to track and soon locate Zarqawi.

MCCHRYSTAL: I was back in another part of the operation center and guys came and said, hey, you need come to see this. You know, I go, wow, that's Zarqawi. It's getting late afternoon, the commander says, I'm going to bomb the house, because I don't think we can risk the time the raid force will take. And we did.

SCIUTTO: Zarqawi was killed. Al Qaeda in Iraq's leader eliminated.

Coming up, Mike Flynn in Afghanistan.

DOUGLAS WISE, RETIRED SENIOR CIA OFFICER: He was very much a renegade.

SCIUTTO: And breaking the rules.

KITFIELD: He said that intelligence and his word to me was, I would do it again.


SCIUTTO: By 2009, Afghanistan was already America's longest war since Vietnam. And now U.S. Forces were losing territory and suffering casualties at a record pace.

Many began to fear the U.S. could lose the war, prompting the secretary of defense to turn to the same commander who had helped rescue the war in Iraq.

MCCHRYSTAL: I can't promise miracles, but I can promise what we committed.

SCIUTTO: And quickly, General McChrystal turned to the partner he had relied on before, General Michael Flynn.

Tell me about the relationship between him and McChrystal.

HOWK: They were very, very close. It gets that way if you work with somebody for a long time. And I think they came to depend on each other.

SCIUTTO: What do you think made him a good Intel officer?

CLAPPER: Well, he was particularly good because he had so much tactical time. And that was his forte, in my view. A great tactical intelligence officer.

SCIUTTO: Tactical time means time on the battlefield.

CLAPPER: Time on the battlefield and in tactical units. A lot of time in special operations world.

SCIUTTO: Flynn was on the ground quickly by June 2009.


FLYNN: This is the last chance for Afghanistan in this century.


SCIUTTO: Afghanistan was a much different battlefield than Iraq, and he believed he needed a better understanding of the situation to form a new and better strategy.

KITFIELD: He did a listening tour around the country, more than one, where he would just go to various villages and towns around Afghanistan and talk to the local merchants, the political leaders, the local imams about how the world looked from their position.

SCIUTTO: He also met with military personnel at all levels. What he learned was daunting. They knew very little about the strength of the enemy because they lack the local relationships necessary to gather Intel.

What were the biggest changes to the strategy?

HOWK: I think it was about letting the Afghan people know that we were there partner, and getting the Afghans in the lead. Getting their security forces out front.

SCIUTTO: What was General Flynn's contribution to formulating that new strategy?

HOWK: I think he was really the voice of reality in the room. The guy was pushing that we listen to everybody.

SCIUTTO: Flynn, with two others, put their findings in a report that was highly critical of the U.S. military and intelligence community.

He wrote this famous report about fixing Intel and expressed genuine reservations about the way the Intel was being gathered and analyzed. When you saw that did you think he had a point?

MCCHRYSTAL: Absolutely. I had most of same feelings he did, and so I thought he was absolutely correct.

SCIUTTO: So to make the biggest impact, Flynn decided to go outside military channels and have the report published by a well-known think tank. But there was pushback to the pushback, right?

MCCHRYSTAL: Somebody came back and said why didn't you put it in this military publication? And he said, well, I wrote an article in that military publication nine months ago, did you read it? The guy goes no. He says that's the point.

WISE: I think part of his success came from the fact that he was very much a renegade.

SCIUTTO: Doug Wise has known Flynn for 20 years, to crossing paths during Weiss' time in the army and then the CIA. He and many others in the Intel world saw real danger in Flynn openly criticizing the U.S. intelligence community in public and outside the chain of command.

WISE: He published that in a public domain. Unhelpful to give our adversaries a sense that somehow, we were not committed to each other, and we were not part of a grander unity of effort, when the fact of the matter is, we were.

KITFIELD: He actually thought at the time that he might get fired for that, but apparently the secretary of defense said no, it's a good report. Carry on.

SCIUTTO: Flynn and McChrystal did carry on, but things were about to get even rougher, after Rolling Stone magazine published an article about McChrystal, titled "The Runaway General." It contains comments from McChrystal aides critical of the president and the vice president.


[22:25:04] BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appear showed a poor -- showed poor judgment.


SCIUTTO: With the administration fuming in D.C., General McChrystal offered his resignation the day after the article was released online. Soon after, he retired.

KITFIELD: If you're looking for the source of some anger that I think we've all detected in Mike Flynn, he said that really left a bad taste in his mouth and I know that to be true.

SCIUTTO: Michael Flynn returned home at the end of 2010, to add further insult rather than receiving a hero's welcome, he found himself under investigation for inappropriately sharing classified information with U.S. allies.

KITFIELD: He broke the rules and he shared that intelligence and his word to me was, I'd do it again.

SCIUTTO: The case was dropped. The army concluding quote, "There was no evidence of senior officer misconduct."

Next, Flynn trades the fight in Afghanistan for the political battlefield of Washington, D.C.

People talked about Flynn facts. You've heard this expression.

CLAPPER: That concerned me.


SCIUTTO: In 2012...

[22:29:59] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By direction of the Secretary of Defense, Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn...

SCIUTTO: Michael Flynn, the battlefield Intel officer and occasional rule breaker, made a remarkable move to the very top of the intelligence community.


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Mr. Secretary, I just want to say thanks to you for this terrific opportunity. It is an absolute honor to be standing here today.


SCIUTTO: Now a three-star general, Flynn would lead the Defense Department's intelligence branch, with a mission to provide Intel directly to troops and commanders on the battlefield, and to policymakers.

CLAPPER: There was no doubt in my mind that Mike would exceed all expectations, and he did.

SCIUTTO: James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence at the time, hired Flynn despite perhaps even because of Flynn's past criticism of U.S. intelligence.

CLAPPER: I brought Mike to ODNI to fix all the intelligence issues that he had been complaining about.

SCIUTTO: Did you have any reservations tapping him for the DIA?

CLAPPER: Mike had a reputation for being an innovator, somebody who questioned the system, perhaps resort to unconventional ways of getting things done.

SCIUTTO: Flynn moved immediately to shake up a sprawling agency with more than 16,000 employees.

Tell me about your experience with him there.

HOWK: He came in, ready to make changes.

SCIUTTO: Jason Howk who served with Flynn and General McChrystal in Afghanistan, was now working at the DIA as well.

HOWK: He got active. He had 15 or 20 things that he wanted to change.

SCIUTTO: But not everyone in the agency welcomed Flynn's changes.

KITFIELD: He tried to instill a much more of a wartime footing, sending analysis out into the field. He had gotten a lot of pushback from that. And a lot of those people, the bureaucrats in Washington didn't want to go overseas and serve in war zones.

SCIUTTO: Flynn came into immediate contact with the White House. Sounding the alarm on the war on terror, as the Obama administration was trying to wind it down.



The war in Afghanistan is winding down.


Al Qaeda has been decimated.


SCIUTTO: Flynn vehemently disagreed with that assessment and grew concerned that U.S. intelligence on the terror group was being watered down.

KITFIELD: And he was very, very upset about that. He called that the big lie.


FLYNN: That is a shortcoming, a major shortcoming.


SCIUTTO: Once again, Flynn did not hesitate to share his criticisms in public, outside the chain of command.


JIM INHOFE, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Is Al Qaeda on the run and on the path to defeat?

CLAPPER: They are not.


KITFIELD: The White House would black out whole passages of his testimony and he would go up there and give it any way.

SCIUTTO: Inside the intelligence agencies, some grew concerned that Flynn's position sometimes contradicted the facts and the intelligence. Flynn facts, they called them.

People talked about Flynn facts. You heard this expression.

CLAPPER: I was hearing from more than one source in DIA about what became Flynn facts. That concerned me.

SCIUTTO: Can you give me an example?

CLAPPER: I think he was convinced the Iranians were behind the Benghazi attack, which they weren't. At least we had no evidence of that. But he insisted that we would find evidence to back up that proposition.

SCIUTTO: The increasingly infamous Flynn facts became one symptom of broader concerns about Flynn's leadership at DIA.

DOUGLAS WISE, RETIRED SENIOR CIA OFFICER: Flynn started to manifest some of the more controversial behaviors that ultimately played out on the national stage.

SCIUTTO: Doug Wise came to work at the DIA in 2014 as the agency's deputy director. Inside the DIA, Flynn was becoming a divisive figure. WISE: It was a polarized agency. There was a loyal and hard core

cadre of officers that were aligned behind Mike Flynn. And there was a larger and equally passionate group of leaders and followers who were not aligned behind Flynn.

SCIUTTO: When did you first begin to believe it wasn't working?

CLAPPER: I think it was a gradual thing. I began to hear things from people in DIA and people whose judgment I trusted and valued, that there were problems.

SCIUTTO: What kind of problems?

CLAPPER: Well, it had to do with Mike's management style. And I was concerned about the impact on the workforce.

[22:35:02] SCIUTTO: Just two years into a three-year term, Flynn was out, forced into an early retirement.

CLAPPER: We had a wonderful retirement ceremony for Mike.


FLYNN: Many know that I like to surf, and so the way I kind of would like to put it is that, you know, life is -- life is like surfing a wave. You can't change the way the wave breaks, but you can certainly change the way you ride it.


SCIUTTO: For the soldier's soldier and self-proclaimed maverick, his 33-year military career was over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time I introduce to you lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn, United States Army, retired.



TOM HEANEY, MICHAEL FLYNN'S CHILDHOOD FRIEND: It was really a great ceremony. But I think you could see it in his eyes that he wasn't done.

CLAPPER: I don't think he left angry. I think he became angry, I'm just speculating, I think perhaps he thought about it and it ate at him.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, Putin, politics.


(CROWD CHANTING) FLYNN: Lock her up, that's right.


SCIUTTO: And some crazy conspiracies.


FLYNN: All 12 democrats voted to impose Sharia law at the local and state level.


KITFIELD: He didn't seem like the Mike Flynn I knew.


SCIUTTO: Moscow, 2015. Just one year removed from one of the senior most positions in U.S. intelligence, Michael Flynn accepts an unusual invitation.


FLYNN: Thank you so much for inviting me and having me here.


SCIUTTO: It is the 10th anniversary celebration for Russia's R.T. television. A network that U.S. intelligence considers a propaganda tool of the Kremlin.


FLYNN: I'm going to be really, really a bit provocative here today.


SCIUTTO: R.T. pays Flynn more than $33,000 to speak at the event. And at dinner, seats him right next to the Russian president. The appearance and the payment shocked many of his former colleagues.

WISE: This was a senior American who cannot claim ignorance of the risks involved. It was shocking.

SCIUTTO: Perhaps more shocking, Flynn at first failed to report the payment as required by law. And later, falsely claimed that he was not paid at all by the Russian government.


FLYNN: I didn't take any money from Russia, if that's what you're asking me.


SCIUTTO: That Moscow visit, one of several foreign trips that Flynn would take as he built his consulting, crossed a line for many of those who know him.

KITFIELD: That struck me as being a little reckless. He was trying to build a business, but it showed to me a certain lack of sophistication how that would be perceived. And I think it was a mistake.


FLYNN: You know, I don't know what's inside of President Obama's head.


SCIUTTO: It was his move into politics, however, that attracted particular attention at the time.


FLYNN: I don't feel like our leadership is on that field.


SCIUTTO: Some of it negative.


FLYNN: We failed to lead.


KITFIELD: He was saying very negative things about the Obama administration on Fox News and a lot of places.

SCIUTTO: And from republican candidates for president, some very positive.

KITFIELD: Here's a recently retired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a war hero, saying the administration got it all wrong.


FLYNN: The people that were around the president advised him incorrectly.


KITFIELD: That's a very attractive message if you're a republican presidential candidate. So five of them reached out to him for advice and he gave advice to all five.

SCIUTTO: By early 2016, Flynn would become an informal foreign policy advisor to the Donald Trump campaign. And in his public comment it was increasingly clear that Flynn shared many of Trump's more controversial positions.


FLYNN: Islam is a political ideology.


SCIUTTO: Including on Muslims.


FLYNN: It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion. And I have a very, very tough time, because I don't see a lot of people screaming Jesus Christ with hatchets or hatchets or machetes.


SCIUTTO: During the tour for his book "The Field of Fight" Flynn's radical views on Islam became a center point. His supporters say, though, that his public attacks on Islam did not reflect the military officer they remembered.

So, you don't believe that he think there is something fundamentally wrong with Islam or with Muslims themselves?

HOWK: I watched him interact with his Muslim partners inside and outside the government. He had soldiers underneath him, and you know, intelligence officers underneath him that were Muslim. Never saw any bias in any way towards any of them. Nothing, but total respect for them as human beings.

SCIUTTO: Still, Flynn would go further on social media, tweeting in February of 2016, "fear of Muslims is rational. Please forward this to others. The truth fears no questions."

And in July, "The next 24 hours, I dare Arab and Persian world leaders" in quotes, "to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick and must be healed."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Mike Flynn.

SCIUTTO: Flynn soon became a regular presence at Trump rallies.


FLYNN: The next president of the United States right here.


KITFIELD: I think a lot of people were asking why Mike would lend his credibility to someone who had such controversial policies.


FLYNN: USA, baby!


KITFIELD: But the people chose Trump was his point.




SCIUTTO: Touted as a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention, Flynn took the stage espousing a fiery takedown of the democratic nominee.


[22:45:00] FLYNN: If I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today. So, crooked Hillary Clinton, leave this race now!


CLAPPER: I was taken aback at the Republican National Convention.



FLYNN: Lock her up, that's right. Yes, that's right, lock her up!


CLAPPER: Cheer leading lock her up, lock her up, regardless of what you think, I thought that was over the line. I really did, for a retired flag officer, to behave like that.

KITFIELD: Him shouting lock her up, lock her up was jarring, not only to me. It was jarring to a lot of people. We're not a country that locks up our political foes. That's something that, you know, dictators have stood, and I asked him about that. He said I know the vulnerability that she created when she had her own private e-mail server. His comment was, you know, she's done real damage to the country, so I don't apologize for that.

SCIUTTO: And like the president, Michael Flynn was a frequent sharer of some alarming and entirely bogus conspiracies.


FLYNN: In the State of Florida, you have 36 senators at the state level, all 12 democrats voted to impose Sharia law at the local and state level.


WISE: It is highly ironic that all of the skills and experiences that made Mike Flynn so successful as a military intelligence officer, those skills were clearly not applied, you know, to this information. It's unexplainable.


FLYNN: In radical Islamist countries cutting deals with Mexican drug cartels."


SCIUTTO: In a radio interview Flynn said that Mexican cartels were helping radicalized Muslims sneak into the United States.


FLYNN: I have personally seen the photos of the signage, the signage along those paths that are in Arabic. The one that I saw was in Texas. And it's literally it's like signs that they -- you know, in Arabic, this way, move to this point.


SCIUTTO: In November, he shared this conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton money laundering, and sex crimes with children.

KITFIELD: One of the things I would ask him if I could interview him today is how did that happen? Because the conspiracy theories were not anything like I had ever heard him talk about. It didn't seem like the Mike Flynn I knew.

SCIUTTO: Did that kind of stuff surprise you?

CLAPPER: It did. This is when -- you know, I thought Mike was a different person.

SCIUTTO: Does it make you sad to see that?

CLAPPER: Well, in some ways, yes.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, Flynn's dangerous lies.


SALLY YATES, FORMER UNITED STATES ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.


SCIUTTO: And what may lie ahead.


JOHN BERMAN, HOST, CNN: Michael Flynn charged with making false statements to the FBI.




WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: Right now, a historic moment.


SCIUTTO: In a stunning victory, Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidency.


BLITZER: Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.


SCIUTTO: Just days later, meeting in the Oval Office, then-President Obama warned then President-elect Trump against bringing Flynn into his administration.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We discussed a lot of different situations.


SCIUTTO: But Mr. Trump quickly selected Flynn, one of his most loyal supporters during the campaign, as his national security adviser.


TRUMP: I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.


SCIUTTO: Trump makes him, arguably, the most important national security official in the administration. Was that a good hire?

CLAPPER: I was concerned, because I wasn't sure Mike had the skill set. He had great tactical intelligence officer in a military setting, but I was concerned about whether that -- those attributes would serve him as national security adviser.


FLYNN: Good afternoon, everyone.


SCIUTTO: But Flynn's time would be short.


DON LEMON, HOSTM CNN: According to two sources, they're telling CNN that Michael Flynn has resigned.


SCIUTTO: President Trump forced Flynn out less than a month into the job, the shortest tenure of any national security adviser. This, after it became public that Flynn lied to Vice President Pence about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

Were you surprised, then, when he washed out so quickly?

CLAPPER: I thought he would last longer than 24 days, yes.

SCIUTTO: At the center of Flynn's downfall, multiple conversations with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Including one on the same day that the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the country, shut down some of their diplomatic compounds and leveled new economic sanctions on Moscow.

Retaliation for Russia's meddling in the election. Flynn urged Kislyak not to escalate the dispute. A request that Russia appeared to grant when Moscow did not respond in kind. Trump praised the move in a tweet, quote, "great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart!" Exclamation point.

Now, this week, we are learning that Flynn may have gone even further in his conversations, a whistleblower telling a congressional oversight committee that Flynn told a business colleague that sanctions against Russia would be "ripped up," as one of the administration's first acts. And that same whistleblower alleges that during the inauguration...


TRUMP: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.


SCIUTTO: ... Flynn texted his colleagues that a plan to join Russia in building nuclear reactors in the Middle East was "good to go." A lawyer for the person Flynn allegedly communicated with denies that there were any texts or other contacts with Flynn.

Before and after entering the White House, the Trump administration repeatedly insisted that Flynn never discussed sanctions on Russia with Kislyak.


[22:54:57] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discussion anything having to do with the United States decision to expel diplomats or impose...

SEAN SPICER, FORMER UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One call talks about four subjects. Two was Christmas and holiday greetings. Three was to facilitate -- or to talk about a conference in Syria on ISIS.


(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: But investigators had evidence that those denials were false. And they were concerned that Flynn's lies could leave him open to blackmail by the Russians.


YATES: If I could try to clarify...


SCIUTTO: The acting attorney general at the time delivering this stunning judgment.


YATES: We believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.


CLAPPER: They're interested in co-opting, not cooperating.

SCIUTTO: Do you believe he was co-opted by the Russians?

CLAPPER: I don't think he was during his time as D.I. director, no.

SCIUTTO: Since then?

CLAPPER: I can't say. I honestly don't know.

SCIUTTO: Does it concern you?

CLAPPER: Well, sure it would. But again, I don't -- I'm speculating here, I don't know.

SCIUTTO: More than two weeks after Yates warned the White House and one day after the Washington Post revealed the false statements in a story...

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: ... the president fired Flynn.


TRUMP: Mike Flynn is a fine person and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it.


SCIUTTO: Still, his departure from the Trump White House was not the end of his troubles. On December 1st, Flynn pleaded guilty to repeatedly lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak, as part of the special counsel's probe in the possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Flynn is now cooperating with the investigation. Sources interviewed

by the special counsel tell CNN that Flynn was also under scrutiny for failing to report payments he received from a Kremlin-tied Russian propaganda network.


FLYNN: Thank you so much for inviting and having me here.


SCIUTTO: Including during his trip to Moscow in 2015 when he appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a lavish banquet. His questionable overseas business dealings did not end with Russia.

Also of interest to investigators, Flynn signed a contract to advocate for the Turkish government. Among his alleged projects, a plot to extradite a Turkish dissident, Fettulah Gulen, to Turkey from the U.S., at the request of Turkish President, Erdogan.


JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: What I saw and heard was sort of the end of a conversation. It's not entirely clear what transpired.


SCIUTTO: Former CIA director James Woolsey says he was at a meeting at the 21 Club in New York City where Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed the idea.


WOOLSEY: But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by the -- one or more of the Americans present at the meeting, to the Turks that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to get hold of Gulen.


SCIUTTO: The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn's fee for his Turkey work was as high at $15 million. Flynn has denied any such plan. Still, regarding Russia, it is becoming clearer that Flynn was not acting alone.


JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: Might K.T. McFarland and Jared Kushner find themselves in trouble?


SCIUTTO: Court documents reveal that Flynn spoke with multiple senior transition officials, including then-Trump adviser K.T. McFarland and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. And what about President Trump? What did he know? And when did he know

it? From the beginning, he tried to shut down the investigation of Flynn. This, according to former FBI Director James Comey.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning.


SCIUTTO: And even after Flynn pled guilty, Trump was still supportive of him.


TRUMP: I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life and I feel very badly.


SCIUTTO: This is a guy who was a detail man, right, as an intelligence officer? Do those entanglements surprise you -- can you explain them?

CLAPPER: Well, a bit we do. And I can't explain them. I say he's a different person after he left active duty.

SCIUTTO: Michael Flynn, the lieutenant general who served three decades. The intelligence officer who played a key role in hunting down terrorists. Now, a confessed felon. His future in legal limbo.

KITFIELD: This is a person who spent a lot of time defending this country in war zones. So, to see what's happened to him is sort of a tragedy.

WISE: How could the Mike Flynn of yesteryear be the Mike Flynn of yester month? It is very much a mystery.

SCIUTTO: Now, the mystery is, just how far up the campaign and the administration did Flynn's Russian outreach go?