Flynn pleads guilty to lying on Russia, cooperates with U.S. probe

Published 03/12/2017 in Politics

Flynn pleads guilty to lying on Russia, cooperates with U.S. probe
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn departs U.S. District Court, where he was expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, and he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into the actions of President Donald Trump’s inner circle before he took office.

The dramatic turn of events also raised new questions about whether Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had a role in those Russia contacts.

Flynn was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump aides.

Under a plea bargain deal, Flynn admitted in a Washington court that he lied when asked by FBI investigators about his conversations last December with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, just weeks before Trump took office.

Prosecutors said the two men discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia and that Flynn also asked Kislyak to help delay a U.N. vote seen as damaging to Israel. On both occasions, he appeared to be undermining the policies of outgoing President Barack Obama.

They also said a “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team had told Flynn to contact Russia and other foreign governments to try to influence them ahead of the U.N. vote.

Sources told Reuters that the “very senior” official was Kushner, a key member of Trump’s transition team and now the president’s senior adviser.

Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He has previously said Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and would continue to do so.

Flynn’s decision to cooperate with Mueller’s team marked a major escalation in a probe that has dogged the president since he took office in January.

There was nothing in the court hearing that pointed to any evidence against Trump, and the White House said Flynn’s guilty plea implicated him alone.

“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” said Ty Cobb, a White House attorney.

Flynn, Kushner targeted several states in failed U.N. lobbying: diplomats

  • Kushner, former Trump adviser McFarland spoke with Flynn about Russia contacts: CNN
  • Kushner told Flynn to contact Russians last year: NBC News
  • Moscow has denied what U.S. intelligence agencies say was meddling in the election campaign to try to sway the vote in Trump’s favor. Trump has called Mueller’s probe a witch hunt.

    In May, the president fired FBI Director James Comey, who later accused Trump of trying to hinder his investigation into the Russia allegations. Comey also said he believed Trump had asked him to drop the FBI’s probe into Flynn.

    Comey on Friday tweeted a cryptic message about justice.

    “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, ‘Amos 5:24’,” he wrote, quoting the Biblical book of Amos.

    Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s presidential campaign for several months last year, was charged in October with conspiring to launder money, conspiracy against the United States and failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.

    Manafort, who did not join Trump’s administration, and a business associate who was charged with him both pleaded not guilty.

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