President Donald trump's one time National Security Advisor for less than a month, General Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to the charge he misled FBI agents during a January 2017 interview after being asked about conversations with the Russia’s ambassador to the United States. The next step: working with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office to go after his onetime confederates in Team Trump. “My guilty plea and agreement 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,” said the disgraced retired three-star Army general in a statement after he left a District of Columbia courtroom. "I accept full responsibility for my actions." The cooperation of such a senior White House official with a criminal probe raises the stakes substantially for Trump, who has raged against an investigation he has insisted is baseless. And the next shoe to drop, legally, could fall on his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whom Mueller has reportedly interviewed this month. While he served as President Trump’s national security adviser, Flynn denied asking Ambassador Sergey Kislyak for Russia to “refrain from escalating in response to [American] sanctions” the Obama administration had imposed on Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and that he asked Kislyak to delay a United Nations Security Council vote on Israeli settlements. Mueller’s bombshell filing only concerns itself with Flynn’s deception to the FBI about his Kislyak conversations. It says nothing about any other area of potential legal jeopardy for the former three-star Army general, including his undisclosed lobbying work before and during his White House tenure on behalf of Turkey. Robert Litt, who until Jan. 20 was the senior lawyer for the office of the director of national intelligence, said Flynn’s admissions flow from the role Mueller needs him to play: witness. In other words, the purpose of Mueller’s actions against Flynn on Friday are to hunt bigger Trump administration targets. Even before Flynn admitted that he was cooperating with Mueller, it was clear to veteran attorneys. Sol Wisenberg, a longtime Washington white-collar criminal-defense lawyer, said early Friday that it was inconceivable that Flynn wasn't cooperating with Mueller in some way. That’s because the paperwork Mueller filed is called an information—it isn’t technically an indictment, and a grand jury didn’t sign off on it. Wisenberg said the only possible reason Mueller would skip indicting Flynn would be because it was a small favor in exchange for Flynn’s help. Legally, pleading guilty to an information is the same thing as pleading guilty after being indicted. But it has a small public-relations benefit to the defendant. On Dec. 22, 2016, according to Mueller, Flynn asked Kislyak to “delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.” That resolution appears to be one critical of Israel, adopted the following day. Kislyak “described to Flynn Russia’s response to his request.” Then, a week later, on Dec. 29 Flynn asked Kislyak to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia,” a final measure the Obama administration took to impose consequences for Russia’s election interference, from which Trump and Flynn benefited. Flynn lied to the FBI about Kislyak “subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request,” according to the court papers. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House on Jan. 26 and 27 that Flynn had not been truthful. Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to dinner on Jan. 27 and allegedly asked for Comey's "loyalty," Comey told Congress. On Feb. 13, Flynn was fired as national security adviser. The next day, Trump asked Comey to "let Flynn go," Comey testified. Trump allegedly asked Comey several more times to drop the investigation into Flynn over ties to Russia before Trump fired Comey on May 9. The charging of Flynn comes at the end of a spectacular fall for the retired three-star Army general. He was one of Trump’s earliest and most influential supporters during the presidential campaign. Against Defense Department regulations, Flynn did not disclose he was paid by a foreign government. Flynn began advising Trump on national security matters in 2016 and was reportedly vetted to be his vice presidential pick. That summer, Flynn started a lobbying and consulting business, the Flynn Intel Group, that retained Turkish interests as clients. Flynn did not register his firm a foreign agent for its business on behalf of Turkey, a potential crime, until this past summer. Flynn was not the only incoming Trump administration official in contact with Kislyak during the Trump transition—and therefore, may not be the only member of Team Trump in legal jeopardy. Jared Kushner, whose portfolio in the administration now includes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about which he is scheduled to talk publicly at Washington’s Brookings Institution on Sunday. Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is reportedly in Mueller’s legal crosshairs as well.
Trump’s Former Aid Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty