Michael Flynn is the fourth former Trump associate to be charged by Robert Mueller's Russia probe, pleading guilty this morning for lying to the FBI. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. (Read the charges).
The lies he told, as noted by Axios' Shane Savitsky:
- Flynn claimed he did not ask former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to attempt to "refrain from escalating the situation" after sanctions were imposed against Russia by the Obama administration during a December 29, 2016 conversation.
- Flynn "did not recall" that Kisylak told him that Russia planned a moderate response to the sanctions thanks to that conversation.
- Flynn claimed that he did not ask Kislyak to delay or defeat a pending vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution during a conversation on December 22, 2016.
Flynn's statement after the plea:
- "After over 33 years of military service to our country... it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of 'treason' and other outrageous acts."
- "But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong..."
- "My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel's Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country."
Be smart, from Axios' Jonathan Swan: "The most plausible explanation for Mueller's generosity towards Flynn is that he's convinced that Flynn can give him something valuable. Perhaps information about a more senior official. That's conjecture but it's what outside law enforcement experts are surmising from this document."
- Swan also notes the puzzling pattern: "Had Flynn simply spoken to the Russian ambassador he might've been fine. Same with Papadopoulos. But they decided to lie. To the FBI. This is stunning. In FBI interviews they tell you beforehand it's a felony to lie and yet two members of the Trump campaign have already lied to the FBI."
Go deeper: How the Russia probe closed in on Michael Flynn.