David R. Irvine: General Flynn and the putsch at the Willard Hotel

(Evan Vucci | AP photo) Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he speaks with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn during a town hall, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, in Virginia Beach, Va. President Donald Trump has pardoned Michael Flynn, taking direct aim in the final days of his administration at a Russia investigation that he has long insisted was motivated by political bias. Trump announced the pardon on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 calling it his “Great Honor.”

The Jan. 6 Committee’s last-minute June 28 hearing has been persuasively and expertly dissected by prosecutor commentators, historians, eminences grises, clever writers and late-night comedians. It’s too early to predict how the surreal game of musical chairs will play out among a high-level group of co-conspirators and a disgraced president, so I’ll not go there.

Instead, I want to highlight one of the striking visual contrasts of the day’s events. Cassidy Hutchinson, the former assistant to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows during the Trump administration, was an extremely impressive young woman, poised and serious, sitting alone before a swarm of photographers and a formidable special congressional investigative committee.

Hutchinson, age 26, had been in many rooms where bizarre things happened, and she certainly knew what she was about to say under oath, and not without great risk, would forever change her life, and, very possibly, the arc of American history. She exuded credibility, confidence and a keen sense of rectitude.

As she matter-of-factly shared the granular details of what she had observed and heard, I kept wondering why it was that much older male officials, farther up the food chain, were so unguarded in their comments and behavior, as though there was no thought that they might be highly incriminating or that they would ever show up on national television.

Was it because she was young and had considerably less status? Or did they think that because she was a woman, her impressions wouldn’t matter? Or was it because they all perceived the whole cabal as a man’s game and therefore way over her head?

Nobody knows, but her solitary, unflinching demeanor in that simple white jacket was a Joan of Arc moment in TV history.

Enter, stage right, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, age 64, 38 years senior to Hutchinson. Flynn had capped a 33-year military career with an appointment from President Obama as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the 16,000-person country cousin to the larger CIA. Another former DIA Director was always irked that CIA would never issue him a permanent Langley entry pass, but the position is nonetheless a big deal.

Flynn’s tenure was problematic because once he was appointed, the Obama White House determined he wasn’t the best fit for the job; his tenure was not renewed. One of the flaps of his DIA gig was a slide deck of dress for success tips on men’s and women’s grooming and attire that circulated through the agency in 2013.

Among other tips for women: “Avoid the Plain Jane look.” “Makeup helps women look more attractive.” “Wear just enough to accentuate your features.” “Adopt the latest look to figure and personality.” “Too much makeup distracts from a professional look.”

Flynn later denied knowledge of the slide deck, but it continued to serve as a touchpoint for women in the Capital City about how out of touch some of the men around them were. In 2016 “Wonkette.com” headlined, “LADIES! Are you Ready to Dress To Impress Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn?

Flynn was fired after 22 days as Donald Trump’s national security adviser for lying to the FBI about conversations between him and the Russian ambassador prior to Trump taking office. Trump’s request for FBI Director James Comey to “Let this [Flynn’s case] go” led to Comey’s firing as well. Flynn’s guilty plea to the lying charge became the basis for a convoluted court battle over his plea-bargain, which extended into late 2020, when it appeared that the judge in the case would hold Flynn to his plea. On Nov. 25, 2020, Flynn received a presidential pardon.

It was then only days until Flynn called upon Trump to “declare martial law for the purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.” When the Jan. 6 cabal set up a war room at the Willard Hotel to coordinate what became the attack on the Capitol, there was Flynn, along with patriotic luminaries Steve Bannon (pardoned pre-trial by Trump), Roger Stone (sentence commuted by Trump), John Eastman (good friend of Ginni Thomas), Rudy Giuliani and others. According to Cassidy Hutchinson, this is where Mark Meadows wanted to be the evening of Jan. 5.

When the clip of Flynn’s testimony to the Jan. 6 Committee was shown, the look on his face resembled that of a raccoon raiding a garbage can, startled by a flashlight. Patriotically, he then responded to these questions: “Do you believe the violence on January 6 was justified morally?” “Take the Fifth.” “Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified legally?” “Fifth.” “Do you believe in the peaceful transition of power? “The Fifth.”

Cassidy Hutchinson, age 26, powerfully dressed for success by Flynn standards, proceeded to wallop a three-star general on the Rectitude Scale, along with the rest of the Willard Hotel Putsch and way too many Republicans in Congress, on what it means to “uphold and defend the Constitution.”

| Courtesy David Irvine

David Irvine, Bountiful, is a lawyer and a retired Army brigadier general.