What you need to know about Donald Trump’s ex-security adviser pleading guilty to lying to the FBI
Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians.
A former national security adviser has become the first White House official to admit guilt in the probe investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Here’s what you need to know about Michael Flynn’s guilty plea.
What has he admitted to?
Flynn, who worked in the Trump administration for just 25 days and resigned in February, admitted on Friday to lying to the FBI.
Trump’s former national security adviser admitted to lying about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the transition period before Trump’s inauguration.
Flynn said he accepted responsibility for his actions and added: “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.”
How will he co-operate with the investigation?
The retired army general agreed to co-operate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, which has seen four Trump associates charged so far. Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos became the first to plead guilty to lying about his contact with the Russians back in October.
The probe focuses on Russian meddling, and potential plans between Russia and Trump’s campaign aimed at sending the billionaire to the White House.
Flynn has admitted that a senior member of the Trump transition team directed him to make contact with Russian officials in December 2016.
Under the plea agreement with Mueller, Flynn's guidelines sentence could be as little as a $500 fine and no prison time; at worst, six months in prison and a $9,500 fine. Manafort and his legal team have to be looking at this deal with great interest today. pic.twitter.com/BeVY6BcYpz— Charlie Savage (@charlie_savage) December 1, 2017
Flynn was on the campaign trail with Trump from early on and, as well as the fact he was involved in the transition period, his business dealings and foreign interactions have given him a special focus for Mueller.
Court papers make clear that Flynn knows the identities of at least two members of Trump’s transition team who were aware of his outreach to Russian government officials in the weeks before the inauguration. Mueller’s prosecutors indicated they were senior and within Trump’s inner circle.
Those officials discussed the details of what Flynn was supposed to communicate to the Russians about US sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
What were the conversations with the Russians about?
As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2016
One of the officials, described as a “very senior member” of the presidential transition team, also directed Flynn to contact foreign government officials, including Russia’s, about a UN Security Council resolution regarding Israeli settlements.
The charging document makes reference to two separate conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and to separate false statements prosecutors say he made regarding that communication.
Flynn was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Administration officials said Flynn had not discussed sanctions that had been imposed on Russia in part over election meddling.
Prosecutors also cite an earlier December meeting, in which Flynn asked Kislyak to delay or defeat a UN Security Council resolution. That appears to refer to the body’s vote a day later to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Lying to the FBI is a very serious crime and Michael Flynn, the former WH National Security Advisor, has pleaded guilty to that. Independent Prosecutor Mueller must continue doing his job in this investigation, unobstructed, so the truth can be revealed to the American people.— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) December 1, 2017
The Obama administration abstained, while the rest of the 15-nation council, including Russia, voted unanimously against Israel.
Israel was lobbying against the resolution and President-elect Trump’s team spoke up on behalf of the Jewish state. Trump personally called Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to press the case against the condemnation, and Egypt postponed the scheduled showdown on December 22 — the same day Flynn met Kislyak.
The vote occurred a day later, with Trump tweeting after: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th”.
What are people saying?
The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon - FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!https://t.co/FrqiPLFJ1E— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
The White House cancelled a meeting between Trump and the press, while White House lawyer Ty Cobb said nothing about Flynn’s guilty plea “implicates anyone other than Mr Flynn”.
The “false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year”, he said.
Trump has since tweeted about a separate matter.
Former FBI director James Comey, whose firing by Trump led to the appointment of Mueller, sent out a tweet quoting a bible verse shortly after the news was announced.
Comey has previously said that Trump asked him during a private Oval Office encounter if he could let the Flynn investigation go, something the White House has denied happening in the way Comey described.
“But justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” Amos 5:24 https://t.co/o89PSY1YBd— James Comey (@Comey) December 1, 2017
Elsewhere on social media, people are having their say on the news.
As a lawyer who practices Federal Criminal Defense, legally speaking, “He snitching.”— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) December 1, 2017
Given how much interest Trump had taken in Flynn’s case earlier in 2017, people are waiting for his say on it.
Notifications for @realDonaldTrump might be necessary for this one.