Former Trump Aid Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to F.B.I.

On Friday morning, former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. during a January 24 interview. In the voluntary interview, Flynn falsely stated that he did not ask Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to refrain from escalating conflict with the United States after the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia. He also falsely denied not recalling a follow-up conversation with the Russian Ambassador in which Kislyak admitted to moderating Russian response to the sanctions because of Flynn’s request.


Image via Defense Intelligence Agency/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady

According to court documents, he did, in fact, communicate with a senior official of the Trump Transition Team to discuss communicating with Russia about the newly imposed sanctions. Immediately after this call with an unidentified senior official, Flynn called Kislyak to request that he refrain from escalating U.S.-Russian relations with an inflammatory response to U.S. sanctions against Russia. After receiving confirmation from Kislyak that Russia would not escalate the situation, Flynn spoke with senior Transition Team officials again about his conversations with Kislyak.

Flynn’s interaction with Russian officials further indicates concerted efforts by Trump aids to interfere with foreign policy before officially taking power, undermining the Obama administration’s authority. Flynn may be a valuable asset to Mueller’s investigation as a top official privy to the inner workings of the Trump administration in its first weeks after the election.

This development also has the potential to undermine claims made by Trump aids that they were misled by Flynn about his conversation with Russia, showing that one, if not many, senior transition officials were informed of the conversations.

Flynn’s plea deal requires his full cooperation in investigation efforts, but the fact that he has previously lied under oath makes him an unlikely candidate to testify against other Trump administration officials. While lying to the F.B.I. carries the sentence of up to five years in prison, the New York Times reports that court documents indicate that Flynn will only face zero to six months in prison.

These developments have enormous implications for Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Flynn’s testimony could reveal possible efforts by the Trump team to thwart Obama-era foreign policy before taking office. While Flynn’s charges of lying to the F.B.I. are bad, the implications of the newly revealed information are worse. He is now in a position to testify about possible obstruction of justice and collusion on behalf of the Trump presidency.