WASHINGTON - Michael Flynn, U.S. President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials. Flynn said in the plea that Trump transition officials directed his contacts with the Russians.
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CNN reported that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and K.T. McFarland, a former adviser, were the transition officials who directed Flynn to contact Russian officials. CNN also reported McFarland met with investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
The White House said in a statement that the guilty plea implicates Flynn alone. "Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn," said Ty Cobb, a White House attorney.
"The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year," Cobb said, adding that the plea "clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion" of the Office of the Special Counsel's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and potential collusion by Trump's campaign.
One of the events Flynn lied about to the FBI is a conversation with Russia's ambassador to the United States in December 2016 about a vote on Israel's settlements in the West Bank at the UN Security Council.
According to the Justice Department, Flynn contacted the Russian ambassador back in December 2016, ahead of the UN vote on the settlements, to inquire if Russia would agree to veto it. The vote took place before Trump took office, while the Obama administration was still in power.
Israeli officials asked Trump's transition team for assistance in blocking the vote, after it became clear that Obama would not veto it. According to The New York Times, Mueller's investigators have learned that it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself who asked Trump's transition team to lobby other nations. Eventually, despite Flynn's request, Russia voted in favor of the resolution – but his conversations with the Russians about the matter have gotten Flynn in legal trouble.
Diplomats familiar with the conversations say Israel was not the only country Flynn and Kushner lobbied on the resolution. In the hours before the vote, Flynn also phoned the UN missions of Uruguay and Malaysia, and Kushner spoke with Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the United States.
Mueller is reportedly examining actions taken by Kushner against the resolution, and, according to The Wall Street Journal, Mueller is also looking into Kushner's contacts with foreign leaders. It was also reported that Kushner met with Mueller’s team earlier this month to discuss Flynn.
Flynn also falsely told FBI officials that in December 2016 he did not ask Russia's ambassador to refrain from escalating the situation after Washington had imposed sanctions on Moscow, according to the court filing. The sanctions were imposed by Obama.
Flynn falsely said that he did not recall the Russian ambassador telling him that Moscow had chosen to moderate its response to U.S. sanctions as a result of his request, the court document said.
Flynn was Trump's national security adviser in the transition period between his election and his entrance to the White House, and then served for an additional month before being forced to resign because of investigations into his ties with Russia. By pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about those ties, he could be signaling that he's willing to cooperate with Mueller's investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report