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CNN Wants to Know Whether Michael Flynn’s Relatives ‘Deleted or Destroyed’ Documents Relevant to Defamation Lawsuit

Michael Flynn and family's disputed July 4, 2020 video

This is a screenshot of a video of Michael Flynn and family from July 4, 2020, which appeared in a CNN segment describing it as a QAnon oath.

The family of pro-Donald Trump retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has not turned over evidence relevant to their defamation lawsuit against CNN, prompting the news network to suggest that the relatives may have “deleted or destroyed original documents,” a new filing alleges.

Flynn’s relatives sued CNN repeatedly in New York and Florida over broadcasts tying them to QAnon, after the relatives recorded themselves reciting “Where we go one, we go all,” a phrase appropriated by believers in the conspiracy theory. The first to sue over the broadcasts were Flynn’s brother John Jack Flynn and that sibling’s wife Leslie Flynn. Sister-in-law Valerie Flynn later followed suit. The Flynn family claims that the phrase, now a well-known QAnon slogan abbreviated under the hashtag #WWG1WGA, was merely a statement in support of each other.

CNN has sought to test those denials in discovery, and their attorneys claim in a letter to the judge that Flynn’s relatives have not turned over responsive evidence.

“For its part, CNN is not merely speculating that additional responsive documents exist that have not been produced; rather, CNN actually knows this to be true. For example, on September 15, 2022, nearly two months after the first meet and confer, Plaintiffs’ counsel produced a single text message conversation between Leslie Flynn and Valerie Flynn discussing the CNN Report at-issue,” the network’s lawyer Katherine M. Bolger wrote in a three-page letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave.

According to a footnote, counsel for the Flynns designated the text message conversation as “Highly Confidential.”

“This message is clearly responsive to numerous CNN [requests for production], and plaintiffs’ failure to originally produce it, only underscores that Plaintiffs’ counsel cannot rely on his clients’ representations that they have provided all responsive documents and communications to him,” the letter states.

Other documents shared with CNN were illegible or otherwise untrustworthy, the network’s lawyers say.

“During the parties’ meet and confer sessions, CNN’s counsel explained that many of the responsive documents Plaintiffs had produced were lengthy PDFs with cut-off text, blurry screenshots and photos, missing embedded images, handwriting, and highlights that make them inauthentic and difficult to discern let alone use in depositions,” the letter states. “In addition, some of the handwriting includes contradictory information i.e., the dates do not match.”

CNN and the Flynn family have also come to loggerheads over access to accounts on Parler, the social media platform that gained popularity with right-wing users after mainstream websites banned former President Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Parler requires notarized consent to turn over social media account information for litigation, and CNN says that opposing counsel stonewalled requests for these as to Leslie Flynn, Joseph Flynn and wife Lori Flynn’s accounts.

“Plaintiffs’ counsel claims that no consents are necessary because he claims, Lori Flynn never had an account, that Leslie Flynn never used her account, and that he has already produced Joseph Flynn’s Parler documents,” the letter states. “But CNN has requested data from Parler regarding any posts a user has ever liked, even if that user never posted herself or himself, and any posts a user may have deleted. Finally, although Plaintiffs’ counsel agreed to produce a notarized consent from General Michael Flynn, to date he has not done so.”

CNN wants the judge to order the Flynn family’s counsel to complete an independent review of their clients’ documents, reproduce authentic documents and provide notarized Parler consents.

“If it is no longer possible for Plaintiffs to reproduce authentic versions, CNN respectfully requests they explain in writing whether they have deleted or destroyed original documents so that CNN may properly evaluate whether spoliation has occurred,” the letter says.

An attorney for the Flynns did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Read the letter to the judge here:

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."