President Trumpâ€™s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December, becoming the first senior White House official to pledge cooperation in the special counselâ€™s wide-ranging inquiry of election meddling.
Documents released as part of Mr. Flynnâ€™s plea agreement show that his pre-inauguration discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, about foreign policy were part of a coordinated effort by aides running Mr. Trumpâ€™s transition into the White House. In at least one instance, federal prosecutors say, Mr. Flynn was directed by a â€œvery senior memberâ€ of Mr. Trumpâ€™s presidential transition team.
Heâ€™s charged withÂ lying about conversationsÂ he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 22nd, 2016 and on December 29th, 2016.
In the first set of conversations, Flynn apparently asked that Russia either delay or defeat a resolution in the United Nations Security Council. Flynn lied to the FBI about whether Russia ever described their response to this request to him, claiming that they did not.
In the second set of conversations, Flynn requested and received assurances that Russia would not respond strongly to President Obamaâ€™s announcement that he was placing new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for their meddling in our election. He dishonestly claimed not to remember that Russia had made these assurances to him.
In return for pleading guilty to these charges, Flynn will be expected to cooperate with the investigation. If he doesnâ€™t do so satisfactorily those other charges, including the kidnapping charge which also implicates his son, could be reintroduced.
Flynnâ€™s stipulation of the facts underlying his December 2016 conversations with then-Russian ambassadorÂ Sergey Kislyak. At least one of those two conversations Flynn undertook at the direction of a â€œvery seniorâ€ transition official, the stipulation says.
The documents do not say who directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak â€” a conversation Flynn later reportedly lied about to Vice President Mike Pence, a lie that was the stated reason that Trump fired Flynn in February. But Flynnâ€™s statement, following hisÂ Friday guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with Muellerâ€™s probe, shows that the transition team, at Trumpâ€™s Mar-a-Lago resort, was informed at every stage of his discussions with Kislyak.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn isÂ expected to testify that President Trump instructed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, according to a report by ABC News.
Flynn is saying that Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians,”Â ABC’s Brian Ross said Friday, just moments after Flynn entered a guilty plea for lying about his contact with Russians during the presidential transition period.
Oh, let it be true, please …
Or, it could have been Pence. Josh Marshall:
The first point to note is that Flynn was the person running the Trump foreign policy operation. That is what a modern National Security Advisor does. From everything we know, itâ€™s what Flynn was doing in the latter months of the campaign and certainly during the transition. In other words, itâ€™s not clear that there was anyone in the campaign who outranked Flynn on foreign policy matters. Other than the President-Elect or conceivably the Vice President-Elect, Flynn is the guy who wouldÂ do the directingÂ rather than getting direction.
Letâ€™s walk through this again.
The â€œsenior officialâ€ is the one who talked with Flynn about how to handle his discussions with Kislyak about the sanctions. It was the â€œvery senior memberâ€ of the transition who specifically told Flynn to contact foreign governments about the Israel resolution at the UN. The language is very specific about the direction. â€œOn or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed FLYNN to contact officials from foreign governmentsâ€¦â€
The â€˜veryâ€™ in â€œvery senior memberâ€ seems like an almost over the top effort to convey just who it was the prosecutors are talking about. Itâ€™s hard to see that that is not either Pence or President Trump, though it also strikes me as perhaps a bit too coy to refer to the incoming President as a member of transition team.
See also Mother Jones. And there’s more …
Flynn clearly kept the Presidentâ€™s team in Mar-A-Lago fully up to date about his conversations with Kislyak, in more or less real time. There were repeated calls with the â€œsenior officialâ€ about Kislyak. Critically, after the full round of calls with Kislyak, Flynn â€œspoke with senior members [note the plural] of the Presidential Transition Teamâ€ about his conversations with Kislyak. …
…Â The clear takeaway is that basically all of Trumpâ€™s top advisors, including the President and almost certainly Vice President Pence, were in the loop about these calls even if they did not themselves speak to Flynn directly.
All this may account for why Trump’s behavior has been more erratic than usual lately.