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From left: Rick Gates, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos. Photos: AP

Michael Flynn pleaded guilty today to "willfully and knowingly" lying to the FBI about his conversations with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, making him the fourth former Trump staffer to be charged in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Why it matters: President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Russia probe is a "political witch hunt" and that there was no collusion among his staffers and the Russians.

The others charged in Mueller's investigation:

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

Manafort, Trump's former campaign advisor, and Gates, his business partner/protégé, were indicted in late October by a federal grand jury on 12 separate charges:

  • Conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading Foreign Agent Registration Act statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
  • Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Manafort faces up to about 15 years in prison, while Gates faces up to about 10 years.
  • State of play: The men have largely remained under court-ordered house arrest since the charges were filed. Their expected to begin trial in the spring of 2018.
  • Go deeper: How the Russia probe closed in on Paul Manafort; Meet Rick Gates
George Papadopoulos

The former Trump campaign advisor was named in the same indictments against Manafort and Gates. But Papadopoulos' charges were explicitly linked to attempts at collusion with Russia.

  • He was arrested in July and cut a deal with Mueller in October. He allegedly attempted to contact Russian officials in order to facilitate a meeting between Trump and high-level Russians.
  • On Oct. 30, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians.
  • State of play: Papadopoulos' sentence hearing will be set for a later date, per the Special Counsel's Office. He will face up to six months in prison (though the max for this charge could be 5 years) and $500 to $9,500 in fines, according to the DOJ plea agreement.
  • Go deeper: The big questions surrounding George Papadopoulos; Papadopoulos claims he misled FBI to protect Trump

Go deeper

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.

54 mins ago - World

Top general: China's hypersonic missile test "very close" to a "Sputnik moment"

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Wednesday that China's test of a hypersonic missile is "very concerning" and "very close" to the kind of "Sputnik moment" that triggered the Space Race during the Cold War.

Why it matters: The comments by America's top uniformed general underscore the depths of U.S. concerns about China's rapid military expansion and development of advanced weaponry.

Climate reckoning for oil and gas CEOs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell will face a reckoning on Capitol Hill Thursday, as they're grilled on evidence that their companies knew for years that their products were driving climate change but chose to downplay or deny it.

Why it matters: The hearing before the House Oversight Committee will be the first time these executives have been brought together to provide sworn testimony regarding what they knew about the ties between their company's products and climate change, and when they knew it.