Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, appears to have called QAnon “total nonsense” and a “disinformation campaign” created by the CIA and the political left – despite his own extensive links to the conspiracy theory and seeming eagerness to serve as its hero.
Flynn’s apparent statement was revealed by Lin Wood, a pro-Trump attorney and QAnon supporter once allied with the disgraced former general.
QAnon followers believe in the existence of a secret cabal of pederastic cannibal Satanists, dominated by Democrats, against whom Trump is fighting. Followers also believe John F Kennedy Jr is not dead and will soon return to lead them. Many recently congregated in Dallas, waiting for that to happen. The FBI considers QAnon a potential source of extremist violence.
Trump has refused to disavow QAnon believers. Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, called them “gentle patriots”.
Late on Saturday, Wood released a recording of what appeared to be a call between him and Flynn on Telegram, a social media and messaging app favored by far-right extremists. During the conversation, a voice which appears to be Wood is heard to complain that QAnon followers are coming after him online.
In answer, the Daily Beast reported, a voice which appears to be Flynn says: “I think it’s a disinformation campaign. I think it’s a disinformation campaign that the CIA created. That’s what I believe. Now, I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s what I think it is. I think it’s a disinformation campaign.’”
“I find it total nonsense,” the voice adds. “And I think it’s a disinformation campaign created by the left.”
The Guardian could not verify the authenticity of the recording. Contact information for Flynn was not immediately available. Wood could not be reached for comment.
Flynn was fired from a top intelligence role by Barack Obama before becoming a close aide to Trump. He was installed as national security adviser but resigned after less than a month, for lying to the FBI about interactions with Russians.
Under the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, Flynn pleaded guilty to one criminal charge. He tried to withdraw that plea, then received a pardon from Trump.
Flynn has attracted condemnation for his links to QAnon and the far right, for calling for the establishment of “one religion” in the US, and for seeming to advocate armed insurrection.
The recording released by Wood comes amid acrimony among leading pro-Trump figures who have worked to overturn the 2020 election. According to the Daily Beast, the feud appears to have sprung from Wood’s brief representation of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old recently acquitted after killing two people and wounding one at a protest in Wisconsin last year.
According to the Beast, Rittenhouse alleged that Wood intentionally let him languish in jail so he could earn money off the case. Wood reportedly became angry that Flynn and Sidney Powell, another pro-Trump attorney, didn’t speak up for him.
Powell could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
The recording apparently featuring Flynn disowning QAnon raised echoes of remarks about a related conspiracy theory by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chair and White House strategist.
Bannon was pardoned on fraud charges by Trump but now faces a charge of contempt of Congress over the 6 January Capitol attack, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
He has repeatedly promoted the “deep state” conspiracy theory, which holds that a permanent government of bureaucrats and intelligence agents exists to thwart Trump’s agenda.
However, Bannon has also said the “deep state conspiracy theory is for nut cases”.