- Thomson Reuters
- The former national security adviser Michael Flynn was charged Friday with one count of making false statements to federal investigators.
- He pleaded guilty to the charge at a plea hearing.
- Experts say it’s a sign he’s cooperating with the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
The former national security adviser Michael Flynn has been charged with making false statements to federal investigators about his conversations last December with Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn pleaded guilty at a plea hearing at the federal courthouse in Washington.
“It has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in a statement.
He said his guilty plea and decision to cooperate with the Russia investigation was made in the “best interests of my family and of our country.”
“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he said.
Experts had said the unexpected plea agreement was a sign that Flynn was fully cooperating with the special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election and whether any Trump campaign associates colluded with Russian officials.
“This is completely indicative of cooperation with the government,” said Andrew Wright, a former associate counsel to President Barack Obama and Vice President Al Gore. “You have a right to a grand-jury indictment, but Flynn evidently waived that right in order to plead guilty. So that is a clear sign that he is cooperating.
“The price of admission for him was to plead guilty to a single-count felony,” Wright said. “That was the easiest one for the government to write and requires them to show the fewest cards.”
An indictment filed by Mueller’s office says Flynn “falsely stated” on December 29 that he did not ask Kislyak “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day,” and that Flynn did not recall Kislyak “subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.”
Obama imposed sanctions on Russia on December 29 over its meddling in the US election.
Flynn also told Mueller’s team that he did not ask Kislyak to “delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution” and that Kislyak “subsequently never described to Flynn Russia’s response to his request,” the indictment says.
In a statement, Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, deemphasized Flynn’s role in the administration and called him a “former Obama administration official.”
“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year,” Cobb said. “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.”
Read the document below:
Flynn is the 4th person in Trump’s orbit charged
Flynn is the fourth person in President Donald Trump’s orbit to be charged as part of Mueller’s investigation.
A federal grand jury indicted Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates on 12 counts at the end of October. Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were related to money laundering, tax fraud, and failing to register as foreign agents.
George Papadopoulos, a former foreign-policy adviser to the campaign, pleaded guilty earlier this year to making false statements to the FBI about the nature and extent of his contacts with foreign nationals who he knew had ties to senior Russian government officials.
NBC reported last month that Mueller had compiled enough evidence to bring charges against Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., related to Flynn’s lobbying work throughout the latter half of 2016 – while he was a top Trump campaign surrogate – for a businessman with ties to the Turkish government.
It had not been reported previously, however, that Flynn had lied to federal agents about his conversations with Kislyak.
Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee earlier this year that she had warned the White House about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak so that the Trump administration “could take action” amid concerns that Flynn could be subject to blackmail by Russians.
Yates said she had had “two in-person meetings and one phone call” with the White House counsel, Don McGahn, in January about Flynn.
“The first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” Yates recalled. “We told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn’t true.”
She added: “We told him … we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and, additionally, that we weren’t the only ones that knew all of this – that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.”
While he was the vice president-elect, Pence insisted in an interview with CBS that Flynn and Kislyak “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia” – a statement that turned out to be untrue and set off alarm bells at the Justice Department.
Yates said the Russians “also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”
“This was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information,” she said. “And that created a compromise situation – a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”
Flynn was forced to resign roughly 18 days after Yates first warned McGahn about his conversations with Kislyak.