Washington Post —
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, marking another milestone in the wide-ranging probe of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Flynn’s admission to the charge Friday in federal district court in D.C. is an ominous sign for the White House, as court documents indicate Flynn is cooperating in the ongoing probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. The plea relates to false statements Flynn made to the FBI on January 24 — four days after President Trump was inaugurated — about his conversations with Kislyak during the transition.
Flynn admitted making false statements to the FBI about asking the ambassador in late December to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed on Russia that same day.” Flynn also told authorities he did not recall the ambassador “subsequently telling him that Russia has chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request,” according to a court filing. That would suggest there was a second, previously unknown contact between Flynn and Kislyak.
Separately, authorities say Flynn lied about asking the ambassador to delay a vote on United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Flynn is the highest-profile Trump ally — and the first aide who worked in the White House — to face charges in Mueller’s investigation. Trump developed a close rapport with Flynn 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, and he gave Trump much-needed national security credentials. Flynn, however, had a mixed reputation among other Trump aides, who thought he gave the president questionable information and questioned some of his business dealings.
Even after Flynn was described as having misled Vice President Pence about the contact with Kislyak, Trump was conflicted over firing him — and even said after Flynn left the White House that he may have made a mistake. Trump’s request of former FBI director James B. Comey to be lenient with Flynn has also come under scrutiny by the special counsel.
In recent weeks, Trump’s lawyers have expected Flynn to plead guilty, particularly after one of Flynn’s lawyers, Robert Kelner, said he could no longer communicate about the probe with Trump’s lawyers.
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