Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn had pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI in connection to conversations that he had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, signaling that he will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion in the Trump campaign.
In a statement, the FBI said that Flynn was dispatched by a senior Trump transition official to liaison with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, CNN reported. The talks were part a broader mission for Flynn to gauge how other nations felt about a United Nations Security Council resolution regarding Israel.
Flynn appeared in court Friday morning to enter his guilty plea. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, but the judge advised Flynn that his sentence could be lengthened or shortened at his discretion.
“[I]t has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in a statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for.”
“But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. 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.”
At the heart of the matter are back-and-forth phone calls between Flynn, Kislyak, and multiple Trump advisors that were made in December 2016, after Trump had been elected. Those calls, which largely centered on impending U.S. sanctions, were misrepresented by Flynn in a statement the FBI, court documents revealed.
Flynn claimed that he did not ask Kislyak “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and Flynn 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.”
White House officials expressed optimism about the guilty plea and claimed that it did not implicate anybody other than Flynn.
“The conclusion of this phase of the special counsel’s work demonstrates that the special counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion,” said White House lawyer Ty Cobb in a statement. Others pointed out that the charge against Flynn does not entail any improper activity on the part of the Trump campaign.