Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty, Agrees To Cooperate In Russia Probe

WASHINGTON, DC — Former national security advisor Michael Flynn, whose business dealings put him at the center of the 2016 election investigation into Russian meddling, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia's ambassador during the transition period before Donald Trump's inauguration and indicated top advisors to the president-elect knew of the conversations.

In a statement released by his lawyer, Flynn, 58, said explicitly that he is cooperating with Mueller's investigation. "The actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and through my faith in God, I am working to set things right," he said.

President Trump waved and flashed a thumbs up, but did not answer shouted questions about Flynn's plea when he welcomed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj to the White House Friday. A scheduled briefing with reporters to talk about Flynn's plea was canceled.

Flynn's plea could mean trouble for Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, identified to Patch by sources close to the investigation that the "very senior member" of the Trump transition team mentioned in the criminal offense statement is Kushner. The person called Flynn in December before a United Nations Security Council vote on sanctions against Israel and told him he needed to persuade every foreign minister and ambassador to delay the vote.

Multiple other news sources are also reporting Kushner is the individual, including Bloomberg News, The Washington Post and NBC News.

In court, Flynn said Trump's team asked him talk to Russians and that he kept the incoming administration informed about what he was doing, discussing it with a senior transition team official, who wasn't named, before talking to Russia's ambassador, Bloomberg reported.

Flynn is the first person to have actually worked in the White House to be charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's sweeping investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and his arrest is a signal the probe is intensifying. Three others have also been charged: former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, as well as a former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos.

During Flynn's brief tenure in Trump's administration, he worked only steps from the Oval Office and had full access to the president. The two men reportedly grew close on the campaign trail, where the general delivered fiery denunciations of Hillary Clinton, including leading a "lock her up" chant at the Republican National Convention.

In admitting to false statements under the plea agreement, Flynn faces up to six months in prison and a fine of $500 to $9,500.

He had resigned less than a month into his tenure after claims that he had misled top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. A day after his resignation, Trump told the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," according to a memo Comey wrote describing the conversation meeting.

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Comey didn't specifically reference Flynn's plea in a Friday social media post that quoted a passage from the Old Testament book of Amos: But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Comey was fired in May by President Donald Trump, a move that helped lead to Mueller's appointment as special counsel. Comey has said Trump asked him during a private Oval Office meeting in February if he could see his way to letting the Flynn investigation go. The White House has denied that that conversation took place as Comey has said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said Flynn's plea "shows a Trump associate negotiating with the Russians against U.S. policy and interests before Donald Trump took office and after it was announced that Russia had interfered in our election."

"It's critical that we determine whether Flynn spoke with the Russians on his own initiative and who knew and approved of his actions," Feinstein said.

Top Democrats in the Senate and House issued statements Friday warning Trump not to try to influence Mueller's investigation or other investigations in Congress.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia warned of an "alarming pattern" by Trump that included his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and Congressman Adam Schiff of California speculated that Flynn's plea may prompt the White House and its allies to try to curtail congressional investigations or try to end Mueller's probe prematurely. Schiff says Congress "must make clear" that would be unacceptable.

In a statement, President Trump's personal lawyer, Ty Cobb, said Flynn's guilty plea implicates only himself.

"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. 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."

The criminal information against Flynn charges him with a single count of "willfully knowingly" making false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24 when he said he had not discussed sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, at the time Russia's ambassador to the United States.

Specifically, Flynn lied to FBI agents about a Dec. 29, 2016, discussion with Kislyak to encourage Russia to temper its response to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for meddling in the election, according to the criminal information. It also says Flynn lied about a Dec. 22 discussion with Kislyak in which he asked him to delay a vote condemning Israeli settlements before the United Nations Security Council until President Obama left office, or oppose the resolution altogether.

Flynn's lawyers recently ceased communication with the White House on the Russia probe, and a guilty plea to a single count suggested he was working out a deal in exchange for leniency for himself and perhaps for his son, Michael Flynn Jr., who had worked with him at a private lobbying and consulting practice whose foreign clients included some who worked for the Russian and Turkish governments.

When Flynn applied for his security clearance to work in the Trump White House, those contacts and payments received weren't disclosed as required.

The guilty plea is the latest fall for Flynn, a retired three-star Army general whose stellar career took him to the top of the military intelligence apparatus. He had served as national security adviser for 25 days, resigning in February after the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn hadn't disclosed his dealings with Russians and could be subject to blackmail.

The Justice Department said Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer about his conversations with Kislyak, which they then disseminated to the public. Pence was kept in the dark until the truth was revealed in a report by The Washington Post.

Flynn, who retired in 2014 as a lieutenant general after a 33-year Army career, led intelligence operations in two key field positions in Afghanistan for three years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and is credited with disrupting Al-Qaeda activity in the area.

He returned to Afghanistan in 2009 after serving stateside for three years as director of intelligence for the U.S. Central Command, and later for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He rankled his supervisors at the Pentagon when his report of failings "at every level of the U.S. intelligence hierarchy" was leaked.

"Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy," Flynn wrote in the report, which said the intelligence community "seems much too mesmerized by the red of the Taliban's cape."

Flynn served for two years as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, who fired him in 2014 for bucking the military chain of command.

Read the statement of offense below:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that ABC News had reported that a Flynn confidant was prepared to testify that Trump had contacted him to contact Russia during the 2016 campaign. ABC has since corrected that report based on a clarification from its source. Trump had assigned Flynn during the campaign to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other hot spots, ABC reported. Shortly after the election, Trump directed Flynn to contact Russian officials on topics that included working jointly against ISIS, according to ABC's correction.

The Associated Press and Patch national writer Colin Miner contributed to this report.

Photo: 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)

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Source : https://patch.com/california/millbrae/s/gas6h/michael-flynn-will-plead-guilty-to-lying-to-fbi

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