Michael Flynn brings film ‘Flynn’ to Skagit’s Cowboy Church - Salish Current
April 30, 2024
Michael Flynn brings film ‘Flynn’ to Skagit’s Cowboy Church
Matt Benoit

Audience members await a showing of Mike Flynn’s documentary at Cowboy Church in Bow. (Matt Benoit / Salish Current © 2024)

April 30, 2024
Michael Flynn brings film ‘Flynn’ to Skagit’s Cowboy Church
Matt Benoit

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Bow tour stop draws hundreds to see and hear former U.S. national security advisor.

Michael Flynn, former U.S. National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump, held a screening of his documentary, “Flynn,” at Cowboy Church in Bow on April 24. 

Flynn, who also served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration, resigned after just 22 days in the Trump administration — the shortest tenure ever for a national security advisor — in February 2017, after concerns he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. 

A retired Army lieutenant general, Flynn became a lightning rod for political controversy over the last decade, eventually pleading guilty to a felony over making false statements to the FBI in 2017. 

Since the 2020 election and Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, Flynn has drawn criticism over being an election denier, commenting on multiple occasions that he does not believe the 2020 election was legitimately decided. 

In December 2020, Flynn tweeted support for a petition urging Trump to declare limited martial law, suspend the Constitution and have the U.S. military re-run the election. Flynn’s Twitter account was suspended on Jan. 8, 2021, and remained that way until earlier this year.  

He has also been a frequent attendee of the ReAwaken America Tour, a series of political events bringing together Christian nationalists and numerous conspiracy theories, some of them considered antisemitic.

Cowboy Church, a grassroots ministry holding services in a horse barn on Sam Bell Road, hosts twice weekly services with food and live music. The barn features a wooden pulpit, dirt-covered floors and large wooden picnic tables for parishioners. Some photos from the church’s Facebook page show congregants being baptized in metal horse troughs.

A long line of ticketholders queued up outside in on-again, off-again rain showers in the hour before the event began Wednesday evening. Attendees paid either $35 for a standard ticket or $200 for “VIP” entry; the latter included a Flynn photo op and reusable American flag tote bag containing a DVD copy of the film, an excerpt of Flynn’s upcoming memoir, a collector coin and a book from a series called “The Citizen’s Guide to Fifth Generation Warfare,” co-written by Flynn and Boone Cutler, an Iraq War veteran, conservative author and radio host. Cutler also attended the event. 

The event was the 13th stop on a 35-city tour for Flynn, which began in Florida earlier this month. It was also the only stop in Western Washington and drew people from as far away as Springfield, Oregon. An April 25 gathering in Spokane — hosted by former state representative Matt Shea — also reportedly drew a large crowd. 

In Bow, a Cowboy Church security guard said the barn could hold around 500 people, and a rough count of many rows of filled chairs gave a likely attendance of at least 400. Judging by a show of hands before the film began, nearly half the crowd had driven at least an hour to be there.

Concerned voters 

Prior to the film, several people waiting to enter the barn spoke with Salish Current and about why they attended.

“I’m concerned about the country,” said Valerie, an Anacortes resident who identified herself by first name only. She said she heard about Flynn’s appearance through her association with the John Birch Society, a conservative political advocacy group which has a Skagit County branch. The society had a display set up inside the church barn, including pamphlets with titles like “DEI: Marxist Poison Infecting America” and “Agenda 2030 and You.” The latter, a 29-page booklet, described a coming global Communist takeover leading to “one world government” and “planned population control.”

An “evidence wall” illustrated a timeline of Flynn’s career events. (Matt Benoit / Salish Current © 2024)

Also inside the barn was an “evidence wall” — a 10-year timeline poster detailing Flynn’s eventual exit from the highest ranks of government. Though mainly focused on Flynn himself, small mentions of conspiracy theories could be found among the wall’s many posts, including FBI infiltration of the Jan. 6 crowd at the U.S. Capitol and mentions of a ‘stolen’ election. The claims presented no evidence. 

Another woman, who identified herself only as Karen, came with her husband from Camano Island. She also expressed general concern about the state of the nation.

“Our (current) administration is horrible,” she said. “We need to bring God and the Constitution back into our daily lives, and into our schools for our children and grandchildren.”

Dee Tole, a King County resident, said she recently attended the state’s GOP convention in Spokane — a chaotic event where the state’s Republican Party officially endorsed gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird over Dave Reichert.

Reichert — a former Congressman who has better poll numbers and more fundraising dollars than Bird, a former Richland school board member — withdrew his name from the convention’s endorsement process and criticized party leadership after attending. 

The state GOP’s new election platform includes rolling back the use of mail-in ballots in Washington, which has been mail-in only since 2011. Tole supports that idea, along with a return to polling stations in Washington, citing concern about the safety of ballot handling through mail delivery.

Tole decided to become more politically active, she said, after asserting her “non-compliance” over COVID-19 restrictions. 

“I’m all about the Constitution, and I just didn’t know that my core beliefs were that strong until I was being told, by the government, that I needed to inject myself with something,” she said. 

Tole also said she believes there was interference in the 2020 national election, and is worried about the same thing in 2024. At a state level, Tole is suspicious of King County Elections Director Julie Wise, who has faced multiple unsuccessful lawsuits accusing her of election irregularities in recent years. 

The film

After a mention of sponsors that included a precious metals exchange and a Christian conservative mobile platform, a recording of the national anthem was played before the film began. 

During the film, audience members applauded and cheered for Trump, Sidney Powell and Flynn. Smatters of boos were heard during mentions of Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Mike Pence. The documentary reveals that Flynn was under serious consideration to be Trump’s VP pick early in his campaign, and that he was a registered Democrat for many years. 

On the road: Flynn’s stop in Skagit County was one of 35 planned for the documentary bus tour. (Matt Benoit / Salish Current © 2024)

The documentary — which portrays a different impression of Flynn than a PBS Frontline film — succeeds at humanizing the toll that controversy and legal fees took on Flynn and his family. Those legal fees, a sister tells the camera, exceeded $300,000 a month at one point, and Flynn’s son contemplated suicide due to depression. 

At its core, the film suggests Flynn was railroaded from his position as national security advisor by government officials, to potentially ease pressure on Trump from federal investigations into possible Russian collusion.

United States v. Flynn, the resulting criminal case involving Flynn after he made false statements to the FBI in 2017, dragged out over the course of several years. Flynn twice pled guilty and eventually attempted to withdraw his plea, but in May 2020 the U.S. Department of Justice controversially dropped the case, with prosecutors claiming Flynn’s lies weren’t materially relevant to the larger Russia investigation. 

In response, the federal judge overseeing the case appointed former judge and prosecutor John Gleeson to argue against the dismissal. Gleeson’s consensus was that Flynn should either be sentenced or pardoned. In December 2020, Trump officially issued the latter, preventing a federal judge from sentencing Flynn. 

Flynn repeatedly called Trump’s move a “pardon of innocence.” 

Flynn’s message 

After the film’s conclusion and a 15-minute intermission, an advertised Q&A session with the crowd quickly became a talkback in which no questions were actually asked by the audience. 

Cutler pulled out a cellphone and dialed actor and Mount Vernon native Jim Caviezel, who complimented Flynn and predicted he would be president one day, before launching into a voice impression of Ronald Reagan.  

Flynn’s son and others — including associate Ivan Raiklin — also took turns addressing the crowd. Raiklin, a former Green Beret, is known for posting a memo known as the “Pence Card” on social media in late 2020 that may have influenced Trump on a plan to have Pence not certify the 2020 election.

Raiklin said his parents fled the oppression of the Soviet Union two years before he was born in 1976. He attempted to equate the persecution of citizens in the USSR with what happened to Flynn. 

When Flynn took the microphone, he expressed dissatisfaction on a variety of political matters, including the stationing of troops in the Middle East, the subject matter taught in public schools and the functioning of current President Joe Biden. 

Flynn also energized the crowd with a call to action, imploring them to get politically active at their local level to “take back” counties and schools. The “nation-state” of the U.S., he said, is overextended by debt and military forces stationed abroad — warning signs for past empires that ultimately crumbled. 

“I am deadly focused on this mission of saving this country,” he told the audience. “Whatever we were doing in the past, it’s not working. So we have to do something different in the future.”

Flynn also made several unproven statements, including an insinuation that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was on a flight manifest for sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. 

He mentioned the 2020 presidential race just once, but to massive applause. 

“I’m not an election denier,” he said, “but I don’t think Joe Biden won the election.”

— By Matt Benoit

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