WASHINGTON — The Trump administration avoided a long battle with Congress over one of its more controversial appointments Friday as retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn accepted a post as the incoming president-elect’s national security adviser, a move that was met with mixed emotions across the national security community.
Flynn, whose inflammatory rhetoric about Islam, apparent reverence for Russia, and questionable ties to foreign governments has drawn ire from his critics, has long been assumed to be the likely candidate for the national security adviser spot. Recent Washington rumors also put him as a top candidate for director of the CIA or secretary of defense, but those — unlike the national security adviser gig — would both require Senate confirmation, and the defense post in particular would require a congressional waiver given Flynn’s recent service in the military. Flynn said he was “deeply humbled and honored” to accept the post in a release Friday.
“I don’t know if I love him or if he’s too simple for a complicated world. He might hate the Islamic religion,” said one defense contractor who works closely with the Pentagon. “He’s a smart guy. He’s a good example of the kind of action-oriented people who falter at senior levels of government.”
Flynn’s career, capstoned by his recent foray into politics with the Trump camp, has been riddled with controversy, though he’s credited with overhauling the country’s counterterror strategies in Afghanistan. That success was dotted with Pentagon investigations — including one internal Pentagon probe that substantiated Flynn’s inappropriate sharing of classified intelligence with allies — and his uniformed career ended when he was unceremoniously pushed out of the Defense Intelligence Agency after heated run-ins with the Obama administration over its ISIS strategy.
Some of his more extreme policy positions, many of which he only publicly adopted since joining the Trump camp, have alarmed even his former allies in the Pentagon, and his ties to Russia have raised eyebrows — Flynn frequently appears on Russia Today, and recently attended a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’s vilified the Islamic religion, blaming it broadly as the cause of violence across the world, and has sat in on top-secret intelligence briefings with Trump while still advising foreign clients.