Former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to a process crime of lying to FBI investigators about the content of a December 29th phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The conversation occurred the same day that then-president Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 election.
This is the same misleading information that led to the White House firing Michael Flynn.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged Flynn (full pdf below) with falsely telling FBI agents that he did not ask the ambassador “to refrain from escalating the situation” in response to the sanctions.
According to the plea, while being questioned by FBI agents on January 24, 2017, Flynn also lied when he claimed he could not recall a subsequent conversation with Kislyak, in which the ambassador told Flynn that the Putin regime had “chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of [Flynn’s] request.”
Furthermore, a week before the sanctions were imposed, Flynn had also spoken to Kislyak, asking the ambassador to delay or defeat a vote on a pending United Nations resolution. The criminal information charges that Flynn lied to the FBI by denying both that he’d made this request and that he’d spoken afterward with Kislyak about Russia’s response to it.
There was nothing wrong with the incoming national-security adviser’s having meetings with foreign counterparts or discussing such matters as the sanctions in those meetings. However, lying to the FBI is the process crime that has led to Flynn’s admissions herein:
If Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador had evinced the existence of a quid pro quo collusion arrangement — that the Trump administration would ease or eliminate sanctions on Russia as a payback for Russia’s cyber-espionage against the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic party — it would have been completely appropriate, even urgently necessary, for the Obama Justice Department to investigate Flynn.
But if that had happened, Mueller would not be permitting Flynn to settle the case with a single count of lying to FBI agents. Instead, we would be looking at a major conspiracy indictment, and Flynn would be made to plead to far more serious offenses if he wanted a deal — cooperation in exchange for sentencing leniency. To the contrary, for all the furor, we have a small-potatoes plea in Flynn’s case — just as we did in Papadopoulos’s case.
It is becoming increasingly palpable that, whatever “collusion” means, there was no actionable, conspiratorial complicity by the Trump campaign in the Kremlin’s machinations. (read more)