Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and court records and people familiar with the contacts indicated he was acting in consultation with senior Trump transition officials, including President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, in his dealings with the diplomat.
Flynn’s admission to the charge Friday in federal district court in the District could be an ominous sign for the White House, as Flynn is cooperating in the ongoing probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
His plea revealed that he was in touch with senior Trump transition officials before and after his communications with Kislyak — rebutting the idea that he was a rogue operator.
This is a huge development in Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 United States presidential election and the fallout from that interference. In October, Mueller brought charges against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Court documents filed then showed Papadopoulos had agreed to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for leniency.
Flynn has now agreed to cooperate as well, to spare himself from an even longer list of charges. In a statement regarding his plea, Flynn said:
It has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts. Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But 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.
Flynn was fingerprinted and photographed at an FBI field office prior to appearing in U.S. District Court with his attorney. Asked by Judge Rudolph Contreras if he was pleading guilty, Flynn replied, “Yes, Your Honor.”
Sentencing has been put off for the time being. Flynn won’t be jailed for now either, but he will be required to check in with the FBI on a weekly basis.
“This is not a meet-in-the-middle deal. Both sides did not assess their risks and decide to hedge them with a compromise,” writes Harry Litman.
“Rather, as we’ve known for weeks, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, believed he had sufficient evidence to indict Mr. Flynn on a long list of criminal charges, including money laundering, tax offense and false statements. Mr. Mueller’s team, as is standard prosecutorial practice, presented Mr. Flynn with that list and helped him understand that his life as he knew it had ended.”
Lest we forget: at the Republican National Convention last year, Flynn accused Hillary Clinton of putting America’s security at extreme risk and then led frenzied Republican National Committee delegates in chants of “Lock her up”:
Turns out it was Michael Flynn who put America’s security at risk.
Flynn deserves to spend some time behind bars for his crime, even if he provides evidence that helps Special Counsel Mueller hold accountable other members of Trump’s regime who may also have broken the law.
The charge of lying to the FBI could earn him up to five years in prison, although he may receive a lighter sentence if his cooperation allows Mueller to land bigger fish.