WASHINGTON – Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Friday guilty plea for lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak drags son-in-law Jared Kushner more deeply into the scandal that has dogged President Donald Trump’s first year in office.
Oh, the irony.
At the Republican National Convention, in reply to the anti-Hillary Clinton crowd chanting “Lock her up,” Flynn, on the podium, said: “If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”
Now Flynn is looking at prison time.
Oh, the irony.
To get a sweeter sentencing deal, Flynn is cooperating with the feds, which potentially means big trouble – if not for Trump personally, then for those around him.
What this cooperation specially calls for is spelled out in the deal Flynn signed Thursday with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Cooperate with federal, state and law enforcement authorities – and that includes covert operations.
Tell the feds about what he knows without his own lawyer present. Testify before grand juries.
For now, the feds own Flynn. He will not be sentenced until they are done with him – and he has to provide “substantial assistance” in order to eligible for a break.
FBI agents first interviewed Flynn Jan. 24 – as part of the ongoing probe of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election and whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The “Statement of the Offense” details how Kislyak contacted Flynn at the end of last December after then-President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia to retaliate for the 2016 election interference.
Flynn called a senior transition official – no name is used – to discuss responding to Kislyak and then gave that same official a debrief when it was over. Flynn, the statement relates, asked Kislyak to get Russia not to react to Obama’s move — and a few days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was standing down for the time being.
And in another episode last December, Flynn also worked with this “very senior member” of the transition team to block a UN vote against Israel on Israeli settlements.
That unnamed official, according to ABC, NBC and CNN is Kushner – White House senior adviser and Ivanka Trump’s husband. His portfolio includes being asked to broker a lasting peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – something no U.S. president has ever done.
Even if Trump pardons Flynn, Flynn already has been telling the feds about Kushner.
Mueller’s job is to bring criminal charges against bad actors – not connect all the dots about Russia interfering in the 2016 election.
By pleading guilty, Flynn avoids a trial where a fuller story about what he did, and why he did it, would be told — with witnesses.
Getting that full story out is the central task of the ongoing congressional probes in the House and Senate.
“The American people deserve a full and transparent accounting of (Flynn’s) actions to understand why he recklessly lied to federal law enforcement agents conducting a criminal investigation,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.
“This must include whether President Trump directed Flynn or had knowledge of his actions.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., a member of the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee, said Mueller’s probe is “moving up the food chain” with Flynn’s guilty plea.
Flynn is the fourth person charged by Mueller. The impact of Flynn and the others on the House Intel probe?
Said Quigley: “It makes it harder for the Republicans to shut it down, either from the White House or from the leadership on the committee … because the public is seeing, ‘Hey, this is serious. People are being charged with felonies.'”