WASHINGTON (NBC News/WCMH) – Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has entered a guilty plea on a charge of making false statements to the FBI.
Flynn was accused of making several false statements about his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the months leading up to President Trump’s inauguration.
According to court documents, Flynn was urged by top Trump transition team officials to contact the Russians. NBC News reports that people familiar with the matter say Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is the a “very senior” transition team official referenced in the documents. Two others familiar with the investigation say KT McFarland, Flynn’s deputy national security adviser, was also involved in discussions about what Flynn would tell Kislyak about the response to the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia.
Flynn was one of the first associates of President Donald Trump to come under scrutiny in the investigation into possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign.
“This admission of guilt by the Former National Security Adviser is a shattering moment for the Trump presidency,” Connecticut’s Senator Richard Blumenthal said after the plea.
Flynn released a statement after the plea reading in part: “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. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Although he faces a sentence of up to five years in prison, experts say it’s likely Flynn will never serve time.
“It tells you that he is already provided information that Robert Mueller believed to be of significant value,” says former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.
Flynn was fired after just 24 days on the job as National Security Adviser.
The White House’s outside counsel Ty Cobb told NBC News that the false statements Flynn told federal investigators are similar to what caused him to be fired. Cobb also pushed back on speculation that Flynn’s cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation could be damaging to the president.
“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” Cobb said. “The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.
Flynn is the fourth person to be charged in the ongoing Russia probe. Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for Trump, and his associate Rick Gates were indicted in October, and George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in October.