As reports mount that President Trump urged Congressional leaders to wrap up the probe of potential collusion by his campaign with Russia, his former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty today in a Washington, D.C., court to one felony count charge of making false statements to the FBI regarding his own dealings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn told agents he had not asked the Russian ambassador on December 29 “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the U.S. had imposed on Russia [for cyber interference in the U.S. presidential election] on that same day” and claimed to not remember that the ambassador told him Russia moderated its response because of his request.
The filing shows that Flynn also told agents he didn't ask the ambassador to delay or defeat a vote on a United Nations Security Council resolution and claimed the ambassador never spoke to him about Russia's response to that request.
But in a statement of the offense provided to the court by Mueller's office, on December 29 Flynn contacted a senior member of the presidential transition team who was at the Mar-a-Lago resort about what to say, if anything, to Kislyak who had called the day before. After speaking with Kislyak shortly thereafter, Flynn contacted the very senior official to recap the conversation with the Russian ambassador, including a discussion of the sanctions. A couple of days later after Flynn received word that Russian President Vladmir Putin had decided not to retaliate over the sanctions in response to Flynn's request, the former national security adviser contacted "senior members" of the president's transition team to relay the information.
A plea deal submitted to the court and posted by Lawfareblog.com shows that Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation and others at the federal, state and local levels that the special counsel office sees fit.
Emails pilfered by Russian hackers from the DNC and other Democratic entities then funneled to WikiLeaks, which trickled them out during the campaign, dominated the latter part of presidential election cycle and prompted investigations by different congressional committees and special counsel Mueller. The president has said the Russian probes - over collusion allegations and Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election - have cast a cloud over his administration.
Calling Flynn's guilty plea “shattering for the Trump presidency” and noting that Mueller “has breached the White House gates,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said “Clearly, Flynn is cooperating – and he must continue to cooperate completely and candidly if he hopes to avoid even more serious criminal convictions.” His admission of guilt “unmistakably” implicates other top officials, he claimed.
“The exact charge sends a bombshell signal: it's about the Russians. Specifically, Flynn lied about issues of preeminent Russian interests – sanctions, the United Nations, and Russian exchanges,” said Blumenthal. “Flynn's betrayal of national security is an enduring black mark on our country's history and a stunning violation of his oath of office. Incredibly, he lied to the FBI while he was the President's chief national security adviser.”
Blumenthal called on Congress to approve legislation to protect Mueller from “improper political interference” that's likely given Trump's “past threats and intimidation.”
He also urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to accelerate its obstruction of justice probe related to the president's dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey for allegedly refusing “to drop the very investigation of Michael Flynn now culminating in this conviction.”