President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday fired Michael Flynn Jr., a member of his transition team who has peddled fake news stories spreading right-wing conspiracy theories, including one that led to a violent incident at a Washington, D.C., restaurant earlier this week.
Trump adviser Jason Miller told reporters on Tuesday morning that Flynn, the son of Trump’s pick for national security adviser, “is no longer involved with transition efforts,” after reports revealed he was assisting with the team and that it had even requested a security clearance for him.
Trump transition officials later told the New York Times that the firing was related to Flynn promoting fake news stories, including a baseless conspiracy theory that led a gunman to attack Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
Armed with multiple weapons, the gunman stormed into the restaurant to “self-investigate” a right-wing conspiracy theory that claimed Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta ran a child sex trafficking ring in the back of the restaurant.
There is no evidence of this theory, known as Pizzagate, but even after Sunday’s incident, Flynn continued to tweet about it.
Flynn is an adviser to his father, Gen. Mike Flynn, whom Trump has named national security adviser. Miller said on Tuesday that the younger Flynn had been assisting his father “with some administration and scheduling duties early on in the transition process.” Trump sources have also said that he attended “a ton of meetings” with his father and helped evaluate potential staffers.
Trump’s team sought to downplay the younger Flynn’s role in the transition after CNN discovered on Monday that he had an official .gov email address, indicating that he was working for the transition team.
In an MSNBC interview on Tuesday morning, Vice President-elect Mike Pence claimed the younger Flynn “has no involvement in the transition whatsoever.” Later in the day, Pence reluctantly confirmed to CNN’s Jake Tapper that the transition team had requested a security clearance for him.
“Well, whatever the appropriate paperwork was to assist him in that regard, Jake, I’m sure was taking place,” Pence said. “But that’s no longer the case.”
Both Flynn and his father frequently share links and conspiracy theories from fake news sources, including allegations of Hillary Clinton’s “sex crimes.”
Trump himself regularly promotes such stories to his millions of followers, according to an analysis of his tweets, and he based much of his campaign rhetoric on conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims.