The U.S. Army repeatedly and falsely denied that the brother of Michael Flynn — the former Trump national security adviser, who has become a prominent conspiracy theorist — was involved in its response to the deadly Capitol riot. At least until Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training, admitted to The Washington Post that he was present during a meeting about whether to deploy the National Guard to quell the mob.
It’s unclear why the Army denied that Charles Flynn attended the meeting, in which one official (it’s not clear who) described the Capitol rioters as “peaceful” and several officials resisted deploying additional troops. The Army’s delay in sending National Guard troops to assist Capitol Police and Washington, D.C., officers who were overrun by the pro-Trump mob has come under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers. National Guard backup did not arrive at the Capitol until nearly four hours after the then-president’s supporters had breached the complex, after most of the violence was already over.
Army officials repeatedly told the Post that Flynn was not involved in their response.
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“HE WAS NOT IN ANY OF THE MEETINGS!” one unnamed Army official told the outlet in an email on Jan. 12.
An Army spokesperson ultimately acknowledged that Flynn participated in the meeting when confronted with “accounts of multiple officials on the call.”
Charles Flynn, who has served in the Army since 1985, told the Post that he was present during a “tense” call on Jan. 6 during which Capitol Police and D.C. officials “pleaded with the Pentagon to dispatch the National Guard urgently, but top Army officials expressed concern about having the Guard at the Capitol.”
Flynn said he left the room before the meeting ended, believing that then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who was not present at the meeting, would soon deploy additional troops.
“I entered the room after the call began and departed prior to the call ending as I believed a decision was imminent from the Secretary and I needed to be in my office to assist in executing the decision,” he said in a statement.
The report noted that “it makes sense” that Flynn would be involved in the Pentagon response given his position with the Army, which controls the D.C. National Guard, though he is not in the chain of command. There’s also no evidence that Flynn “shares his brother’s extreme views” or was in any way “influenced by his brother.”
Dan Lamothe, one of the reporters who broke the story, said that Army officials denied it because they were “aware of how it might look to some Americans.”
The riot came one day after Michael Flynn, himself a retired three-star general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, revved up a crowd of Trump’s supporters at a Washington rally with false claims of election-rigging.
“This country is awake tomorrow,” he said on the eve of the siege. “The members of Congress, the members of the House of Representatives, the members of the United States Senate, those of you who are feeling weak tonight … we the people are going to be here, and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie.”
Michael Flynn has increasingly pushed QAnon conspiracy theories and was banned by Twitter in the wake of the riot, as part of the platform’s crackdown on misinformation and incitement of violence. Flynn, along with his attorney Sidney Powell, met with Trump at the White House during his push to baselessly overturn the results of the election and publicly called for Trump to invoke martial law to “rerun” the election.
McCarthy, who stepped down when President Joe Biden took office, told the Post that he was not in the meeting with Charles Flynn but defended the lieutenant general.
“Charlie Flynn is an officer of an incredibly high integrity,” he said. “Multiple combat tours. He has buried a lot of people. This guy has given a lot to this country. It is incredibly awkward for this officer every day for what is going on with him and his brother, but he puts his head down in, and he is locked in to serve the Constitution.”
The report noted that Army officials continued to deny Flynn’s involvement “before and after” the reporters interviewed McCarthy.
Officials in D.C. called the Army to plead for assistance dealing with the riot. Though the D.C. National Guard had deployed more than 300 troops in advance of the riot, they were limited to traffic control and other unarmed efforts intended to free up police. The teleconference became tense as D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee grew “incredulous at the Army’s reluctance to engage,” according to the report. Five officials on the call confirmed to the Post that the Army resisted sending in the National Guard because they were “concerned about the visuals” of troops at the Capitol.
Contee and then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund were “flabbergasted” by the Army’s response, according to the report.
Sund, who has since resigned amid scrutiny of the Capitol Police response, previously said that then-House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and then-Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger resisted asking the National Guard to assist their response in advance of the pro-Trump march that quickly overwhelmed officers, also citing concerns about optics. Irving and Stenger were also both forced to resign shortly after the riot.
On the call, one Army official insisted that the protesters were “peaceful” even after authorities declared a riot, according to the Post. Contee replied that “they’re not peaceful anymore.”
Army officials did not say how long Charles Flynn was in the room during the call or whether he was the one who made the remark about “peaceful” protesters.
McCarthy has insisted that it was difficult to “understand” what was happening at the Capitol at the time after the Army failed to plan for the event, largely because top congressional security officials failed to request assistance.
“We were trying to get a handle on this,” he said in an earlier interview with the Post. “And when we got moving, we moved as fast as we could from a cold start, not configured to take a reaction.”
But the denials of Charles Flynn’s involvement has raised further questions about the Army’s handling of the crisis.
“Really troubling that the Pentagon would repeatedly lie about this,” said Tommy Vietor, who served as the spokesman for the National Security Council under Barack Obama.
In an interview with CNN, McCarthy blamed the Pentagon’s “overly bureaucratic” system for the delay in its response.
“There’s too many people that are involved with the decision, and ultimately no one, one single person responsible,” he said. “It makes it very difficult and slow in the response.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has since asked retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who led the military relief response during Hurricane Katrina, to conduct “an immediate review of the Capitol’s security infrastructure, interagency processes and procedures, and command and control.”
The inspectors general of the Departments of Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, and the Interior have launched their own reviews into the agency responses.
About 25,000 National Guard troops were on hand to protect Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday and new barriers were erected around the Capitol, which Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said could be the “new normal” in the nation’s capital.
“We saw white extremists storm the Capitol Building who were trained and organized and seemingly with the intent to capture the vice president of the United States and perhaps harm other lawmakers,” she said last week. “So we all have to think about a new posture.”