President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pled guilty this morning in a federal court in Washington for lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador last December. Special counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” regarding those conversations.
Flynn’s plea indicates what the New York Times and other sources have already reported – that the former Trump administration official is cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Previously, the president’s legal team confirmed that Flynn’s attorney is no longer engaged in privileged discussion with them. Then on Monday Flynn’s attorney met with the special counsel’s team, essentially switching sides, which furthered speculation of a plea bargain.
Mueller’s team released a press statement earlier this morning.
Press statement from Mueller: "The court has scheduled a plea hearing for Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (Ret.), 58, of Alexandria, Va., at 10:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras at the D.C. federal courthouse on 3rd and Constitution."
— Kate Brannen (@K8brannen) December 1, 2017
Michael Flynn’s plea document was submitted to the court by the special counsel on Thursday.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 1, 2017
The plea document reads:
On or about January 24, 2017, defendant MICHAEL T. FLYNN did willfully and knowingly make materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the Government of the United States, to wit, the defendant falsely stated and represented to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C.
The document goes on to say that Flynn gave false witness to the F.B.I. on two counts. First, he lied about asking the Russian Ambassador to refrain escalation in response to the United States’ imposed sanctions.
On or about December 29, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States (“Russian Ambassador”) to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and FLYNN did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those – sanctions as a result of his request.
Flynn also lied about asking the Russian ambassador to delay a vote regarding a UN Security Council resolution.
On or about December 22, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution; and that the Russian Ambassador subsequently never described to FLYNN Russia’s response to his request.
Though Flynn is the first Trump administration official to be charged, he is the fourth person connected to the president’s 2016 election campaign to be charged in Mueller’s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign, as well as possible obstruction of justice and financial crimes. This indicates that the special counsel’s investigation is intensifying.
Flynn’s indictment follows the indictments of George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates.
The White House has yet to comment.
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It seems that President Trump and his legal team learned of Flynn’s guilty plea only this morning.
Sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News the President & his legal team learned about the Flynn plea via news reports this morning.
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) December 1, 2017
President Trump specifically asked then FBI director James Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn. When Comey refused, the president fired him.
1/24: Flynn lies to FBI about interactions w/Russian govt
1/26: Yates warns WH Flynn compromised
1/27: Trump asks Comey for loyalty
1/30: Trump fires Yates
2/13: Flynn resigns after WashPost reports Yates warned of blackmail risk
2/14: Trump asks Comey to drop Flynn probe
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) December 1, 2017
It is important to note that the Flynn lied to the FBI while still working in the White House as the National Security Advisor. This will make it harder for the administration to distance themselves, as they did with the Papadopoulos and Manafort.
The charge of lying to the FBI is dated Jan 24th…..when Flynn was in the White House as National Security Advisor Hard for White House to distance itself from this
— Alan Fisher (@AlanFisher) December 1, 2017
Regardless, CNN reports that the president is trying to play off the charge by saying that everyone lies in Washington.
Via CNN's @GloriaBorger: "One source close to the president attempted to mitigate the severity of the charge against Flynn by pointing out that everyone lies in Washington."
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 1, 2017
Which might work, because it seems the standard of ethics in D.C. have changed since Bill Clinton was president in the 1990s.
Bill Clinton was impeached by Republicans for perjury.
Now it's just the thing that everyone does. 🤷♂️
— Karl Darrin Devlet (@hesanihilist) December 1, 2017
Depending on the nature and extent of Flynn’s cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation, we may see more information come forth that will lead to additional indictments of those within the White House administration.