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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Trump's former NSA Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI

His guilty plea could add to Trump’s Russia woes that have dogged his administration since his inauguration.

world Updated: Dec 01, 2017 23:31 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
File photo of former US national security adviser Michael Flynn.
File photo of former US national security adviser Michael Flynn.(NYT)

US President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators about two conversations with the then Russian ambassador to the US during the transition period of the Trump administration in December 2016. He has also admitted to other false statements.

Flynn was charged with one count of making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with Russian envoy Sergey Kislyak regarding sanctions imposed against Russia by then president Barack Obama and about an upcoming vote in the UN Security Council involving Israel.

Prosecutors told a Washington court that Flynn has said he was directed by the Trump transition team officials to make contacts with Russians. He said he consulted with a “senior official” at Mar-e-Lago — Trump’s Florida resort — on what to communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions, and with a “very senior member” of the transition team about the Israel vote.

Flynn is also charged with making two other false statements regarding registration of his firm Flynn Intel Group for a work contract from the Turkish government.

In a statement of facts filed with the court, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the Russia probe, said: “Flynn’s false statements and omissions impeded and otherwise had material impact on the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals connected with the campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential elections.”

In a statement issued after the court appearance, Flynn said, “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

His guilty plea could add to Trump’s Russia woes that have dogged his administration since his inauguration.

Trump’s legal team said in a statement: “The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr Flynn. 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.”

However, Trump himself did not answer questions about Flynn’s guilty plea. He did not respond to shouted questions on Friday morning as he welcomed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj to the White House.

Later, the White House announced that it had cancelled a scheduled media interaction.

The first sign of a plea deal and that Flynn could be cooperating with the probe came in November, when his lawyers announced they were breaking contact with Trump’s legal team and stopped sharing information with them.

Flynn is also the first person from Trump’s inner circle of campaign aides and advisers who joined his administration to plead guilty in the ongoing Russia investigation. The other guilty plea was by George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser who has also admitted to lying about his contacts with Russians.

Two others, Paul Manafort — a former Trump campaign chairman — and Rick Gates, had been arrested earlier and charged with conspiring against the US, money-laundering and failing to register as foreign agents.

Flynn’s first conversation with Kislyak took place on December 29, 2016 — the day Obama announced a slew of sanctions against Russia for allegedly meddling in the presidential election.

In an interview with FBI agents on January 24, Flynn said he “did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request”, prosecutors said in a court filing.

The second false statement was about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak on December 22, 2016, regarding a UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements in West Bank. The Obama administration was prepared to allow the vote to take place. Mueller’s investigators know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lobbied the Trump transition team to kill the vote, according to The New York Times. And Flynn and president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner had taken the lead in lobbying other countries.

(With inputs from Agencies)

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 20:31 IST