By Miriam Raftery
December 1, 2017 (Washington D.C.)—Former National Security Advisor and retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn pled guilty today to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about his back-channel talks with Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to Trump taking office in efforts to influence U.S. policies on sanctions against Russia and more.
In court, federal authorities indicated Flynn is cooperating with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign ties to the Kremlin to potentially influence the U.S. presidential race outcome. Court records indicate Flynn has admitted he was directed by Donald Trump’s transition team officials to contact Russia’s ambassador, the Washington Post reports.
Flynn admitted lying about asking the ambassador in December to refrain from escalating tensions over sanctions the U.S. had imposed on Russia – before Trump took office. He claimed he did not recall key discussions with the ambassador on the issue. He also pled guilty to lying about asking the ambassador to delay a vote on United Nations Security Counsel resolutions.
In a statement, Flynn called it “extraordinarily painful” to endure months of “false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” but added that “the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.” He further stated, “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interest of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Flynn could face up to five years in prison for lying to the FBI, but could have faced a far longer prison term had he not cooperated with prosecutors and been charged with additional crimes. He is also believed to have struck a deal to spare his son, Michael G. Flynn, who worked with him from facing charges. Flynn’s son gained notoriety for promoting false rumors on social media, notably a “Piizzagate” story claiming Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival, ran a child prostitution ring out of a pizza parlor.
Former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he took payment to attend an event hosted by Russia’s propaganda network, Russian Times, where he was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He failed to register as a foreign agent. He was paid over a half million dollars by foreign clients for consulting work including lobbying for the Turkish government. Legally he was required to list such work on security clearance and financial disclosure forms, but did not. A staunch Trump supporter during the campaign, after becoming Trump’s National Security Advisor he was forced to resign just weeks later after his meeting with Kislyak became public knowledge and Vice President Mike Pence said he was misled by Flynn on the matter.
Trump tried to halt the investigation into Flynn, telling then-FBI Director James Comey to “let this go,” calling Flynn a “good guy,” the Washington Post reports.
Flynn is the latest in a string of Trump insiders to plead guilty or face charges. Former Campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates were indicted on 12 counts by Mueller’s team on charges including conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money and serving as an unregistered foreign agent. Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to FBI agents about his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump campaign representatives and Russian officials.