Michael Flynn has been charged. What his cooperation with Mueller might mean for Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump‘s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI, and agreed to work with investigators looking into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The Office of the Special Counsel said Flynn was charged with making false statements about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
The ex-Trump adviser was forced to resign in February after the White House said Flynn had misled officials about whether he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
In a statement following his plea, Flynn said he would cooperate with the investigation for the “best interests of my family and of our country.”
“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,” Flynn said. “I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
A White House lawyer issued a statement following the plea saying the charge affects Flynn and only Flynn.
WATCH: Flynn arrives at D.C. courthouse to answer to charge of lying to the FBI
“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.”
The White House appeared to distance itself from Trump’s former adviser saying Flynn had been at “the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration” and noting he was a “a former Obama administration official.”
Trump had named the retired lieutenant general to the role despite red flags about Flynn’s Russian contacts and advocacy for warmer U.S. relations with Moscow, which has been under U.S. economic sanctions for years.
Outgoing president Barack Obama had fired Flynn in 2014 and reportedly warned Trump not to hire Flynn.
Flynn had been under investigation for a wide range of allegations, including paid lobbying work on behalf of a Turkish businessman in 2016.
So what does Flynn’s charge mean for Donald Trump?
The first question to ask is, has Flynn officially flipped on the Trump administration? Peter Loewen, director of the School of Public Policy and Governance at the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto, seems to think so.
“It appears that Flynn is prepared to testify and his testimony will suggest an active role for Donald Trump in meeting with Russian officials,” Loewen explained in an email to Global News.
WATCH: Members of U.S. Congress, Senate react to Michael Flynn guilty plea
As Loewen pointed out, the fact that Flynn was charged only with a single count of false statements suggests that Flynn’s cooperation will help special counsel Robert Mueller pin further charges on someone else.
“Flynn has had close contact with Russian officials. This is established. This contact was probably the basis for criminal charges, as Flynn was not in position to negotiate on behalf of the U.S. government or to try to persuade foreign governments. It appears he did,” Loewen said. Given that he has not been charged for this, someone else will be.
“The president is in those crosshairs,” Loewen suggested.
The charge against Flynn comes a month after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his business partner Rick Gates, and a former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, were charged by Mueller and his team.
WATCH: Trump refuses to answer questions on previous Papadopoulos ‘great guy’ comment
In October, Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges including conspiracy against the United States and failing to register as foreign agents. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials, bringing the first criminal charges that suggest links between Trump campaign and Russia.
As for what Flynn’s cooperation means for Trump? Well, it’s not looking good, Loewen suggested.
“Someone he brought into his campaign, who spoke at his convention, whom he considered for VP, and who was his national security advisor, has not admitted guilt to more serious crimes,” Loewen said. “If more serious crimes have been committed, he is going to point at the president as being responsible for those.”
–-with files from Reuters
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