Charles Flynn also rejected the notion that his relationship with his brother, a retired Army lieutenant general who suggested that President Donald Trump should “rerun” the presidential election and could declare martial law, was a factor in his response. “Suggesting that my brother’s relationship would somehow influence my actions — I categorically deny,” Flynn said in a conference call with reporters. “And I take it as a bit of a questioning of my integrity. So those are my thoughts on that.”
The comments came after Flynn issued a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday that stated he had been in the room during a tense call in which other agencies responding to the deadly riot on Jan. 6 pleaded for the National Guard to intervene immediately. The Army had denied for days that Flynn was involved in the meeting.
The general, who will soon be promoted to a four-star officer, said he could not remember whether he said anything on the call. “I do not recall saying anything in the conference, but I may have, and I just don’t recall saying anything to the audience on the other end,” he said. Other participants on the call have told The Post they heard Flynn speak.
The comments from Flynn, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training, as well as from Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, the director of Army staff, were arranged as the service scrambled to respond to questions about Flynn’s acknowledgment Wednesday.
Earlier Thursday, the Army offered The Post an interview with the two generals, before shifting gears five minutes before the scheduled time and holding a conference call with several media organizations instead.
The Army’s response continued to shift during the conference call.
In an Jan. 10 interview with The Post, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who has since resigned, recalled pleading for the Pentagon’s help on the call and said that a top Army official, later identified as Piatt, said, “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background.”
In a Jan. 11 statement the Army issued on his behalf, Piatt denied saying that. Pentagon officials also denied in conversations with The Post that Piatt expressed reservations about the optics of sending the National Guard in to quell the violence.
“I did not make the statement or any comments similar to what was attributed to me by Chief Sund in The Washington Post article — but would note that even in his telling he makes it clear that neither I, nor anyone else from DoD, denied the deployment of requested personnel,” Piatt said in the statement.
But Piatt told reporters Thursday that he did not recall whether he cited the optics as a concern for the Pentagon.
“What we’re getting from some of the note-takers in the room is that I may have said that,” Piatt said. “I don’t recall saying ‘the optics.’ I recall saying that my best military advice is that we formulate a plan.”
Asked why the public should trust the Army’s shifting account of events, Piatt said the day was “totally chaotic.”
“We’re not attempting to mislead in any way,” he said.
Piatt reiterated that he made clear to the participants of the Jan. 6 call that he did not have the authority to activate the full D.C. Guard, and that as they were speaking, then-Army Secretary Ryan C. McCarthy was down the hall obtaining sign-off from the acting defense secretary.
“I had to keep saying, ‘We’re not denying your request. We need to make a plan,’ ” Piatt said.
Members of the D.C. National Guard arrived at the Capitol hours later to help law enforcement officials establish a perimeter around the grounds.
Military officials have said repeatedly that they were not well positioned to respond to the riot because they had activated just 340 Guard members in a limited, unarmed role, in consultation with District officials. City officials had sought a small military response after thousands of Guard members flooded the city in June during racial-justice protests at the behest of Trump.
Charles Flynn’s involvement in the Pentagon’s response to the riot makes sense, because of his position. The D.C. Guard answers to the president, but control over the force falls to the defense secretary and the Army secretary, essentially leaving operational decisions to top Army officials. Flynn, however, is not in the chain of command.
On the call Thursday, Flynn did not specifically distance himself from or renounce the extreme views of his well-known brother, but there is no indication that he shares those views. Michael Flynn has espoused messages associated with QAnon, a sprawling set of false claims casting Trump as the leader of a spiritual war against child-eating Satanists who control Washington. The extremist ideology, which predicts a final cataclysm known as “the Storm,” galvanized some of the rioters on Jan. 6.
The day before the riot, Michael Flynn, who once led the Defense Intelligence Agency and left the Army as a lieutenant general, appeared at a D.C. rally and riled up the crowd, claiming Trump had won the election on Nov. 3.
Addressing the members of the House and Senate, Michael Flynn said, “Those of you who are feeling weak tonight, those of you that don’t have the moral fiber in your body, get some tonight, because tomorrow we the people are going to be here, and we want you to know that we will not stand for a lie!”
In December 2017, Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. Late last year, Trump issued him a pardon.