WASHINGTON — Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and indicated he’s working with special counsel investigators, while the White House branded the Republican National Convention keynote speaker as an “Obama administration official” and said the charge doesn’t touch the administration.
The count in the U.S. District Court for D.C. filing says that Flynn “falsely stated and represented” to FBI agents that while working on the Trump transition team on Dec. 29, 2016, he “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,” along with Flynn telling investigators he “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.”
Flynn was also charged with lying about a Dec. 22 conversation, saying he “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.”
He faces up to five years in prison on the charge. He was released with the requirement that he check in weekly until sentencing.
Flynn said in a statement 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,” he said. “I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Flynn, who led the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, served in the Trump administration from Day One. He worked for the Trump campaign while still running his lobbying firm, advocating for the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an Election Day op-ed. After resigning from the Trump administration, Flynn filed as a foreign agent for work done on behalf of the Turkish government.
The national security advisor lasted less than a month in office, stepping down Feb. 13 for reportedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations, which were leaked to the press, with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Two days later, at a press conference, Trump called Flynn “a wonderful man” who has “been treated very, very unfairly by the media.”
The White House released a statement from Ty Cobb, who has been representing the Trump administration in the Mueller probe since July, noting that Flynn served “for 25 days during the Trump administration” and is “a former Obama administration official.” President Obama reportedly advised President Trump not to hire the former lieutenant general, who was pushed out of the DIA reportedly over conflicts with his leadership style, in their White House transition meetings.
“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.”
ABC News reported that Flynn is prepared to testify that it was Donald Trump who directed him to make contact with the Russians before Inauguration Day.
Flynn is the fourth person connected to the Trump campaign to be charged thus far in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted at the end of October on a dozen counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Former Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos, who tried to set up a meeting between the presidential candidate and the Russian government, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to federal agents about the nature and timing of his contacts. The plea deal was unsealed on the same day as the Manafort and Gates indictments.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) would not comment to reporters on Capitol Hill today about the Flynn development.
House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement that “every American ought to be outraged that a senior White House official committed a felony while in office – particularly when that individual is the most senior official in charge of ensuring our national security, and that the crime to which he pled guilty relates to conversations with a foreign adversary.”
“The president’s recent attempts to convince Republicans in Congress to undermine the special prosecutor’s investigation into this matter further raises speculation about who else might be involved and what the president is trying to hide,” Hoyer added. “These developments underscore the need for Congress to establish a bipartisan, independent commission to look into Russia’s attempts to undermine our election and subvert our democracy.”
Burr confirmed this week that Trump has asked senators multiple times to “move on” from their Russia investigation.