Flynn’s Guilty Plea Looms Over a White House on the Verge of a Tax Cut Success

Still, former Representative Mickey Edwards, Republican of Oklahoma, said Mr. Trump’s unconventional political appeal might yet minimize the consequences that other presidents might have endured.

“In any normal White House, and with any normal basis for presidential support, the Flynn story would be crippling,” he said. “This president’s support base is small but apparently unshakable, and with Republicans in Congress showing a frightening unwillingness to hold this president to account, I don’t expect this development to change the behavior of either Congress or the president.”

Mr. Flynn was the highest-ranking current or former White House official to be convicted of a crime connected to his time in office since two national security advisers to President Ronald Reagan — John M. Poindexter and Robert McFarlane — were found guilty during the Iran-contra scandal. Mr. Poindexter’s conviction was later reversed on appeal and Mr. McFarlane was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.

Almost everyone in Washington, it seemed, had expected an indictment of Mr. Flynn, and the possibility that he was cooperating with prosecutors was telegraphed last week with the news that his defense lawyers had cut off contact with Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

And yet the announcement on Friday still hit the White House like a thunderclap. The president’s legal team had no advance warning. His chief of staff, John F. Kelly, learned about it from television. He called Mr. Trump, who was still in the residence part of the White House, to let him know he would be hearing about a Flynn plea deal soon. The president’s reaction, according to one adviser, was that Mr. Flynn “is in a lot of trouble.”

Whether that fear turned into something more immediate about himself or his family, Mr. Trump did not vocalize it, the adviser said. His staff urged him to stay off Twitter, and for the most part, he complied. The president had a cordial, if at times awkward, lunch with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, and then used Twitter to deny any plans to fire him. In the afternoon, Mr. Trump stopped by a White House Christmas party for reporters but stayed less than five minutes.

The president’s optimistic outlook last weekend was fueled by his White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, who has consistently assured him that the investigation by Mr. Mueller would most likely conclude by the end of the year. Mr. Cobb has successfully persuaded Mr. Trump for the most part to curb…

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