Retired Army General Michael Flynn, who served 24 days as White House national security advisor, was to enter a guilty plea in federal court for lying to the FBI.
Flynn was a top aide to President Donald Trump during the campaign and in his first month in office.
Special counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador.
“Michael Flynn’s guilty plea is an absolutely massive problem for Donald Trump,” said Chris Cillizza, a CNN editor-at-large. “Flynn’s decision to cop a plea and cooperate with investigators — coupled with the fact that the lone charge against him deals with lying to the FBI as opposed to his dealings with Turkey — suggests that Mueller believes there could be someone higher in the chain of command than Flynn about whom the former national security adviser can provide critical information.”
Cillizza speculated that Flynn is probably giving evidence against Trump, his son or son-in-law.
Trump kept Flynn on the job for 18 days after the Justice Department informed the White House the he had conversations with the Russians that could make the retired Army General vulnerable to blackmail.
Trump later asked then-FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Flynn’s crimes.
Court documents show Flynn, whose business dealings and foreign interactions made him a central focus of Mueller’s investigation, admitted to lying about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the transition period before Trump’s inauguration.
Trump fired Flynn in mid-February for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his phone discussions with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
After Trump’s election, Kislyak and Flynn spoke by phone several times in late December, reportedly discussing economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
Those calls were monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, but Flynn told Pence his conversations with the Russian did not address U.S. sanctions on the Kremlin.
After naming Flynn as National Security Council in January, Trump reluctantly fired him less than a month later for misleading Pence and other officials about whether he discussed Russia sanctions in post-election phone calls with Kislyak.
Trump had known about the misstatements for nearly three weeks but did not take action until the Washington Post reported Feb. 9 that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions.
FBI Director James Comey later testified that, during an Oval Office meeting the day after Flynn’s firing,
Comey says Trump asked him to end the FBI’s inquiry, reportedly saying, “I hope you can let this go” but the president repeatedly denied making the comment or that he tried to interfere in the probe.
The former FBI director’s firing in May precipitated the appointment of Mueller as special counsel.
Comey said he found Trump’s request concerning and he documented the private Oval Office encounter in a memo, summaries of which were later disclosed to members of the media.
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and another Justice Department official went to the White House on Jan. 26 to warn White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was potentially compromised and vulnerable to blackmail because of discrepancies between the public accounting of the Kislyak conversation and what actually occurred.
White House officials, including Pence, had stated publicly that Flynn had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak, but Yates has said she advised McGahn there were problems with that account. She has said she expected the White House to take action.
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