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Flynn pleads guilty, is cooperating in Trump-Russia probe

  • FILE - This Feb. 1, 2017, file photo shows then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, joined by K.T. McFarland, then-deputy national security adviser, during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington. McFarland is an unnamed senior official referred to in the court papers filed in the Flynn case. She was involved in a discussion with Flynn about what he would say to Russian government officials in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia last year. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) Carolyn Kaster

  • Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves federal court in Washington on Friday. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, the first White House official to make a guilty plea so far in Robert Mueller’s investigation. AP

  • FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 file photo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens to President Donald Trump at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. A member of Trump's transition team says Kushner is the "very senior transition official" referenced in court papers filed in the Michael Flynn case. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

  • Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn arrives at federal court in Washington, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Court documents show Flynn, an early and vocal supporter on the campaign trail of President Donald Trump whose business dealings and foreign interactions made him a central focus of Mueller's investigation, will admit to lying about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the transition period before Trump's inauguration. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • A protestor stands outside federal court in Washington, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, as former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn is inside. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, center, arrives at federal court in Washington, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Court documents show Flynn, an early and vocal supporter on the campaign trail of President Donald Trump whose business dealings and foreign interactions made him a central focus of Mueller's investigation, will admit to lying about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the transition period before Trump's inauguration. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • FILE - In this March 29, 2017, file photo, then-Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland speaks at the Women's Empowerment Panel, at the White House in Washington. McFarland is an unnamed senior official referred to in the court papers filed in the Michael Flynn case. She was involved in a discussion with Flynn about what he would say to Russian government officials in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia last year.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) Pablo Martinez Monsivais



Associated Press
Friday, December 01, 2017

Michael Flynn, the retired general who vigorously campaigned at Donald Trump’s side and then served as his first national security adviser, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about reaching out to the Russians on Trump’s behalf and said members of the president’s inner circle were intimately involved with – and at times directing – his contacts.

His plea to a single felony count of false statements made him the first official of the Trump White House to be charged so far in the criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. And his action could be an ominous sign for a White House shadowed for the past year by investigations, turning Flynn into a potentially key government cooperator as prosecutors examine whether the Trump campaign and Russia worked together to influence the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

Friday’s developments don’t resolve the paramount question of possible Trump-Russia coordination in the campaign, but they do show that Flynn lied to the FBI about multiple conversations last December with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Court papers make clear that senior Trump transition officials were fully aware of Flynn’s outreach to Russian officials in the weeks before the inauguration.

The officials were not named in court papers, but people familiar with the case identified two of them to the Associated Press as Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and former Deputy National Security Adviser KT McFarland, now up for an ambassadorship.

That revelation moves the Russia investigation deeper into the White House. And, given the direct involvement of the transition team in Flynn’s calls with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the plea also raises questions about the accuracy of repeated assertions by the administration that Flynn had misled Mike Pence and other officials when he denied having discussed sanctions with the diplomat.

Flynn, the longtime soldier , stood quietly during his plea hearing except to answer brief questions from the judge. Flynn accepted responsibility for his actions in a written statement, though he said he had also been subjected to false accusations. He said, “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.”

A former Defense Intelligence Agency chief, Flynn was a considerably more vocal Trump surrogate during the campaign, known for leading rally crowds in “Lock her up” chants regarding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Though prosecutors also had investigated Flynn lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government, the fact that he was permitted to plead guilty to just one count, and faces a guideline range of zero to 6 months in prison, suggest that prosecutors see him as a valuable tool in their investigation and are granting a degree of leniency in exchange for cooperation.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb sought to distance the plea from Trump himself, saying: “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

Nonetheless, the Russia investigation has persistently followed Trump the first year of his presidency, angering the president and repeatedly distracting from his agenda. Flynn’s plea came as Republican senators labored to pass a far-reaching tax bill, which would be a significant victory for Trump.

On Friday, the president ignored reporters’ shouted questions as he welcomed the Libyan prime minister to the White House, and aides canceled media access to a later meeting between the two. He did appear briefly at an afternoon White House holiday reception for the media, where he offered season’s greetings and departed without addressing the Mueller investigation.

Trump had taken a particular interest in the status of the Flynn investigation. Former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing in May precipitated the appointment of Mueller as special counsel, has said Trump asked him in a private Oval Office meeting to consider ending the investigation into Flynn. Comey has said he found the encounter so shocking that he prepared an internal memo about it.

Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI days after Trump’s inauguration, was forced to resign on Feb. 13 following news reports indicating that the Trump White House had been warned by Obama administration officials that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was therefore compromised and potentially vulnerable to blackmail.

White House officials including Pence, who had declared publicly that Flynn never discussed sanctions, said they had been misled.