More trouble for Trump as Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI
Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador and disclosed that he is cooperating with the special counsel’s office.
Flynn is the first person inside President Donald Trump’s administration to be reached by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The developments are a sign that the investigation is intensifying, and details revealed Friday provide the clearest picture yet of coordination between Flynn and other Trump advisers in their contact with Russian officials to influence international policy.
According to an FBI statement, Flynn communicated with then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak after being asked by a senior Trump transition official to find out how foreign governments stood on a coming UN Security Council resolution about Israel. The prosecutors did not name any transition officials.
Sources familiar with the matter told CNN that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is the senior official referred to in the statement of offense.
An attorney for Kushner, now a White House senior adviser, did not comment.
The White House said late Friday morning that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.
“The conclusion of this phase of the special counsel’s work demonstrates again that the special counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion,” Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, said in a statement.
In court Friday morning, Flynn’s only comments were to answer yes and no to questions from the judge. He told the judge he has not been coerced to plead guilty or been promised a specific sentence. Flynn faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines, though the judge Friday morning stressed he could impose a harsher or lighter sentence.
In a statement, Flynn said he acknowledged that his actions “were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.
“My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he said.
Flynn is the fourth person connected to Trump’s campaign to be charged as part of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and members of Trump’s team, as well as potential obstruction of justice and financial crimes.
Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted last month; they pleaded not guilty. And Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty for making a false statement to the FBI over contacts with officials connected to the Russian government.
Flynn’s plea agreement stipulates that he’ll cooperate with federal, state or even local investigators in any way Mueller’s office might need, according to a document filed in court Friday. He could also be required to participate in covert law enforcement operations (such as wearing a wire) if asked, or share details of his past dealings with the Trump transition and administration.
The agreement adds that Mueller’s office won’t prosecute Flynn for additional crimes they outlined in his statement of offense Friday, such as his misreported foreign lobbying filings about his work for Turkey. If other prosecutors outside the special counsel’s office, such as US attorneys or state law enforcement, wanted to charge Flynn with alleged crimes, they still could, and he’s not protected if he lies to investigators again in the future or breaks the terms of his plea agreement. CNN