Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of making false statements to the FBI, becoming the latest Trump associate ensnared by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
As part of the deal, Flynn has agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.
Already, Flynn is saying in court documents that an unnamed “senior official” in the Trump transition team directed him to contact nations including Russia over a United Nations vote – a discussion cited in the charging document Friday.
In a written statement, Flynn said “it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts.”
However, he said, “I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today 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.”
A source close to Flynn said financial and emotional pressure helped lead to the decision to plead guilty, rather than endure a drawn-out court battle.
In a statement, White House lawyer Ty Cobb said “nothing” about the plea implicates anyone other than Flynn.
He said: “The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”
Flynn entered the plea at a federal court in Washington, D.C., shortly after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a one-count charging document.
The false-statements charge pertains to Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador in late December — specifically discussions about sanctions and other matters he apparently claimed never happened.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, becomes the first Trump ex-White House official to face charges in the probe.
His tenure at the White House was brief — he was fired for similar conduct, pertaining to his undisclosed discussions with the Russians — and Flynn had been under investigation even before the special counsel probe over lobbying work for Turkey and other issues.
The fact that he faced just one count prompted immediate speculation Friday that Flynn was cooperating and offering information to Mueller’s team.
Flynn is accused of “willfully and knowingly” making the false statements to the FBI while serving in the Trump administration.
According to the charging document, those false statements were that:
- “On or about Dec 29, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States … 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.”
- “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.”
Democrats used the development to up the pressure on Republicans to give the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election space to proceed.
“This time, the president can’t get away with claiming these charges aren’t about his inner circle’s contacts with Russia, and he can’t dismiss Michael Flynn as some low-level aide,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.
Flynn is the fourth person charged in connection with Mueller’s investigation.
Mueller’s team announced charges last month against three other Trump campaign officials: former chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and a former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos.
A Flynn plea deal had been rumored ever since his attorneys informed President Trump’s legal team they could no longer discuss the investigation.
Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI just days after Trump’s inauguration, was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.