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Trump Taps 'Fiery' General with Putin Ties for Security Post

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn talks to media as he arrives at Trump Tower, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn talks to media as he arrives at Trump Tower, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President-elect Donald Trump made it official Friday by naming his top military advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, to become the next White House National Security Advisor.

Flynn, 57, of Middletown, Rhode Island, a career intelligence officer and registered Democrat with 33 years of service, will succeed Obama administration National Security Advisor Susan Rice in the post that will make him the filter for Trump of the advice and views coming from the Defense and State Departments, and the intelligence agencies.

In a statement, Trump said "I am pleased that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn will be by my side as we work to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, navigate geopolitical challenges and keep Americans safe at home and abroad. General Flynn is one of the country's foremost experts on military and intelligence matters and he will be an invaluable asset to me and my administration."

Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said "I am deeply humbled and honored to accept the position as National Security Advisor to serve both our country and our nation's next President, Donald J. Trump."

Flynn, often described by former military colleagues as a "fiery" and innovative officer with hardline views on "radical Islam," stirred controversy during the campaign with his harsh criticism of President Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Flynn led chants of "lock her up" and charged that the U.S. had lost its will to win under President Obama in the war against the Islamic State.

Democrats excoriated Flynn as a "loose cannon" but at least one Democrat, fellow Rhode Islander Sen. Jack Reed, had mixed praise for Flynn and even got ahead of the Trump team in announcing the appointment.

Reed's office put out a premature release Thursday saying Trump had named Flynn and then quickly withdrew it. However, a spokesman for Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the senator's statement would apply once the appointment became official.

In the statement, Reed, a West Point graduate who earned the Ranger tab, said of Flynn that "I respect him and deeply admire his family's legacy of military service. It is pretty remarkable to have two brothers rise to the rank of general like Mike and Charlie Flynn."

Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn is commander of the Army's 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, a key unit in the Army's contribution to the Obama administration's rebalance of forces to the Pacific.

"I do not agree" with retired Lt. Gen. Flynn on every issue, Reed said, and "I have concerns about some of the statements he made in the heat of the campaign" but "he is familiar with the complex set of security challenges we face."

Flynn's appointment to the White House post will not require Senate confirmation, which would have been problematic. Flynn, who had been mentioned as a possible Defense Secretary, would have needed a waiver from Congress on the rule barring retired military officers for five years from nominations for posts requiring Senate approval such as Secretary of Defense.

In a Senate confirmation hearing, Flynn also could have been expected to face grilling on his lobbying work. Last year, Flynn was paid to sit next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner in Moscow for the state-run news outlet RT. Flynn later said he used the trip to urge Putin to rein in his aggressive foreign policy.

Flynn was a Distinguished Military Graduate of the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the University of Rhode Island and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1981. He has also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Golden State University.

His career after joining the Army in 1981 included multiple tours at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps and the Joint Special Operations Command. He also served at the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

In 2002, Flynn was director of intelligence for Joint Task Force 180 in Afghanistan. From 2004-2007, he was director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In April 2012, Flynn was nominated by President Obama and later confirmed as head of the Defense intelligence Agency. He retired in 2014, reportedly over disputes over his management style and disagreements with superiors on the progress of the campaign against the Islamic State.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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