Former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian ambassador and said he was directed to make contact by a senior member of President Donald Trump’s transition team.
Flynn, an early and vocal supporter of Trump on the campaign trail, admitted to lying to the FBI earlier about his conversations with then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period before Trump’s inauguration.
Flynn said that a senior member of the Trump transition team directed him to make contact with Russian officials in December 2016. The government didn’t reveal the identity of the senior transition official.
Court documents released today show Flynn has been charged with a single count of “willfully and knowingly” making false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24.
In a statement, the retired Army lieutenant general said he accepted responsibility for his actions and added: “My guilty plea and agreement to co-operate with the special counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country.”
The guilty plea makes Flynn the first person to have actually worked in the Trump White House to face formal charges in the investigation, which is examining possible co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
Prosecutors with Mueller’s office say Flynn falsely stated to the FBI that he hadn’t discussed sanctions with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States. The Obama administration had recently imposed sanctions against Russia over interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Flynn is the fourth person charged in connection with Mueller’s investigation after ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort and two colleagues.
Flynn has been under investigation for a wide range of allegations, including lobbying work on behalf of Turkey, but the fact that he was charged only with a single count of false statements suggests he is co-operating with Mueller’s investigation in exchange for leniency.
Early on, Trump had taken a particular interest in the status of the Flynn investigation. Former FBI director James Comey has said Trump had asked him in a private Oval Office meeting to consider ending the investigation. The White House has denied that assertion.
Flynn, who was…