Flynn, Possible Trump Running Mate, Supports Abortion Rights

  • Retired general has been registered Democrat and Obama critic
  • Potential VP picks coy as Republican convention nears

Potential running mates for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump played down their interest Sunday, even as the billionaire candidate has made the selection process unusually public.

Retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, who said he has been a registered Democrat but has criticized President Barack Obama, has emerged as a dark-horse candidate in recent days. People familiar with the vice-presidential search last week said Trump has not made a decision, though a list of finalists has been set.

QuickTake U.S. Abortion Rights Fight

Picking Flynn could enhance Trump’s projection of strength on national security issues -- but the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency stumbled in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” when pressed on social issues.

Asked about abortion, Flynn suggested a position counter to Republican Party policy and the views of many of its most faithful voters. “I think it’s a thing for women,” said Flynn, 57. “They are the ones that have to make the decision because they’re the ones that are going to decide to bring up the child or not.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, said that Flynn “has disqualified himself from consideration.”

Position ‘Unacceptable’

“His pro-abortion position is unacceptable and would undermine the pro-life policy commitments that Mr. Trump has made throughout the campaign,” Dannenfelser said in a statement.

Abortion-rights supporters were skeptical that any ticket headed by Trump would be open to their positions. “Donald Trump doesn’t understand or care about women’s health or lives,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “Whomever he picks as vice president will reflect those values.”

Flynn’s views on domestic issues are less developed than on national defense, he said. “I’m about national security,” he said in response to a question on same-sex marriage. “What people do in their private lives, I’m not -- these are not big issues that our country’s dealing with that are -- that will cause our country to collapse.”

‘Wrong Direction’

Flynn said it was “amazing” to be considered for Trump’s second-in-command, without committing to taking the role if offered. “If people are serious about it, you know, I have to be serious about it,” said Flynn, who said the U.S. was “going in the wrong direction.”

Though Flynn hasn’t been a politician, he is no stranger to the Obama administration, or to political infighting.

After Flynn led several intelligence commands within the Army, Obama nominated him to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. He left that post two years later, one year ahead of schedule, after reports of infighting with White House officials over how best to direct intelligence resources.

Trump, 70, has taken an improvisational approach to choosing a running mate. His choice is expected to be announced before the Republican National Convention kicks off in Cleveland on July 18.

Speculation Rife

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an early Trump supporter and adviser on national security, denied that he’s been advocating for Flynn, and also wouldn’t rule himself out. That decision will “be decided by Donald Trump. He will decide it on who he thinks will be a good president,” Sessions said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, who’s also mentioned as being on the short list, said she hadn’t been asked for specific documentation, nor talked with Trump staff about being the vice-presidential nominee. “It’s certainly a great honor to be mentioned with numerous other people across our nation,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump’s comments in recent days have incited speculation about his short-list, which is also said to include Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. 

In a Bloomberg Politics national poll last month, almost a third of likely voters supporting Trump said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would be the best pick. Christie was picked by nearly a tenth of Trump supporters. Florida Senator Marco Rubio (24 percent) and Ohio Governor John Kasich (18 percent), vanquished by Trump in the Republican primaries, received a large share of the support but seem unlikely to end up on the ticket.

Gingrich has recently been spotted exiting Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Others said to be short-listed, including Iowa Senator Joni Ernst and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, have removed themselves from speculation.

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