- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2017

Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to making false statements to FBI agents, admitting that he lied to investigators when he said he didn’t ask Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. to limit Moscow’s reaction to U.S. sanctions during the presidential transition.

The charge was brought as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination with members of the Trump campaign, and it brings Mr. Mueller’s probe for the first time into the president’s inner circle.

Mr. Flynn, a lieutenant general in the Army, was the president’s top national security aide for a month until he resigned in February for having misled Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

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Appearing in federal court in Washington, Mr. Flynn acknowledged Friday that he was cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation. Lying to the FBI carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

As Mr. Flynn left the federal courthouse Friday morning, he was greeted with chants of “lock him up” from protesters.

At the White House, Mr. Trump and his legal team apparently learned about Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea via news reports Friday morning. The president’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, said “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

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“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year,” Mr. Cobb said in a statement provided by the White House. “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.”

He called Mr. Flynn “a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump administration, and a former Obama administration official.”

Documents filed in the case indicate Mr. Flynn was facilitating discussions between the ambassador and high level Trump officials about Russian affairs before Mr. Trump was sworn into office on Jan. 20.

According to court documents, the day after President Barack Obama signed an executive order announcing sanctions against Russia over its interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Flynn called a senior official on the Trump presidential transition team to ask what he should tell Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the sanctions.

The official was at Mr. Trump’s Mara-Lago resort with other officials discussed with Mr. Flynn how the sanctions could impact the incoming administration’s foreign-policy agenda.

After the call, Mr. Flynn spoke again with Mr. Kislyak to tell him not to let Russia “escalate the situation and only to respond to the U.S. sanctions in a reciprocal manner.”

The following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would not retaliate against the U.S. over the sanctions. Mr. Trump praised the announcement on Twitter.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!” Mr. Trump wrote.

The false statement charge stems from a Jan. 24 interview FBI agents had with Mr. Flynn about his interactions with Mr. Kislyak. The interview was conducted just four days after Mr. Trump was sworn into office.

The court documents indicate that Mr. Flynn also said he did not remember Mr. Kislyak later telling him that Russia had chosen a moderate response to the sanctions as a result of his requests.

Prosecutors also assert that Mr. Flynn lied when he told investigators that he did not ask Mr. Kislyak to delay the vote on a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.

Stocks fell sharply on Friday after ABC News reported that Mr. Flynn intended to testify that Mr. Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 300 points before rebounding slightly, reports CNBC. The S&P 500 and NASDQ also dropped in wake of the report.

Mark Corallo, a Republican strategist who worked for a time on Mr. Trump’s legal team this year, said he doesn’t believe the Flynn guilty plea will lead necessarily to more charges for aides close to the president or the president himself. He noted that the FBI has been investigating allegations about Russian meddling for nearly two years.

“If they found nothing in that time to tie the president to Russia collusion, I don’t see it coming now,” Mr. Corallo said. “We may be seeing the end. I don’t think they’re going to find anything linking the president to cooperating with the Russians on meddling in our election.”

Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea, the most ominous legal development yet for the president’s inner circle, came on the same day that Mr. Trump was expected to score the biggest legislative victory as the Senate was poised to approve his tax-cut plan.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the guilty plea by Mr. Flynn “is about more than just lying to the FBI. What he lied about and when he did it are of even greater significance.”

“This 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,” she said. “That’s a stunning revelation and could be a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign power.”

She said investigators must determine “whether Flynn spoke with the Russians on his own initiative and who knew and approved of his actions. This is just one more proof point that these investigations must be allowed to continue without interference.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, said the charge against Mr. Flynn is “very disturbing.”

Asked by reporters about Mr. Flynn joining the Republican National Convention in a chant of “lock her up” over Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server, Mr. Kaine replied, “He would not give the benefit of a fair legal process to anybody else but he gets the benefit of fair legal process.”

During the convention, Mr. Flynn had said to the crowd: “Lock her up, that’s right. If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

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