Former U.S. National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. Flynn’s plea marks a new phase of the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Appearing in U.S. federal court this morning, Flynn entered a guilty plea for one count of making false statements to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak between when U.S. President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016 and his inauguration in January 2017.
Flynn told FBI agents during a voluntary interview in January 2017 that he did not ask Kislyak to “refrain from escalating the situation” when then U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions against Russia for its interference in the election. Flynn also wrongly said he did not remember further conversations with Kislyak, who claimed Russia was moderate in its response to those sanctions because of a request made by Flynn.
Flynn’s statements “impeded” and had a “material impact” on the FBI’s investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, according to a statement of offense obtained by The New York Times.
“Mr. Flynn’s pre-inauguration discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, about foreign policy were part of a coordinated effort by aides running Mr. Trump’s transition into the White House, documents released as part of Mr. Flynn’s plea agreement show,” the Times reports. “In at least one instance, federal prosecutors say, Mr. Flynn was directed by a ‘very senior member’ of Mr. Trump’s presidential transition team.”
The senior member was not named, but members of the transition team included U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump’s first chief of staff Reince Priebus.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb released a statement and said that nothing about Flynn’s plea “implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” according to the Associated Press. Cobb also said that “false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in [Flynn’s] resignation in February of this year.”
Flynn has now pledged to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, and released a statement via his legal team obtained by NPR recognizing that his actions were wrong.
“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 our country,” Flynn said. “I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
As part of his plea agreement, Flynn has agreed to cooperate fully with Mueller’s investigation and offer information on “any and all matters” that prosecutors request. His sentencing has not been scheduled, but could face up to five years in prison for making false statements to the FBI.