Flynn flips: Top Trump confidant pleads guilty, now working with FBI - InfoNews

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Flynn flips: Top Trump confidant pleads guilty, now working with FBI

Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn arrives at federal court in Washington, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Court documents show Flynn, an early and vocal supporter on the campaign trail of President Donald Trump whose business dealings and foreign interactions made him a central focus of Mueller's investigation, will admit to lying about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the transition period before Trump's inauguration. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
December 01, 2017 - 2:31 PM

WASHINGTON - The Russia probe is burrowing deeper into U.S. President Donald Trump's inner circle. Suddenly, a high-profile Trump confidant, perennial campaign sidekick and paramount national-security staffer is assisting police in the dig for incriminating details.

Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser and top-level campaign aide, turned himself over to authorities and pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about two interactions with the Russian government.

But that's not the worst news for the White House.

Flynn has announced he's co-operating with the police investigation following a plea deal — the arrangement grants Flynn more lenient treatment in exchange for working with Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

"I am working to set things right," Flynn said in a statement.

"My guilty plea and agreement to co-operate with the special counsel's office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country."

The terms of the deal mean Flynn will agree to testify and share information about others in exchange for lighter sentencing, now that he's admitted to a crime that carries a maximum five-year sentence.

The deal lets Flynn avoid charges on other alleged misdeeds of unregistered foreign lobbying, undeclared foreign income and unreported contacts with foreign officials, all of which carry potential multi-year sentences.

One particular bit of news sent the stock market plunging, before it recovered later in the day: ABC News reported that Flynn has promised to testify against Trump.

The news sent a political thunderclap through Washington, overshadowing major tax changes advancing through Congress, with a bill progressing through the Senate that would drastically cut corporate taxes.

Yet there were still ripples of unconcealed glee in a capital where the administration is deeply detested.

One Washington bar is offering $5 drinks to celebrate whenever someone is charged in Mueller's Russia probe; it announced that Friday's Michael Flynn happy hour special was to start at 4 p.m.

The news was greeted with a yawn from the White House, at least in its public statements.

A lawyer for the president said in a statement that Flynn had been a senior defence official in the Obama administration, only worked 25 days in the Trump administration and had lied to everyone.

"Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn," said the statement from Trump lawyer Ty Cobb.

But in a sign of disquietude within the administration, White House staff kept a low profile Friday and cancelled one scheduled media appearance involving Trump and a visiting Libyan dignitary.

The court documents hint at broader troubles ahead.

They state that senior Trump staff were involved in the conversations that got Flynn convicted: phone calls placed to Russian officials, which he later lied about to police, resulting in the criminal charge.

One such senior staff member, according to numerous published news reports, was Trump's own son-in-law — current White House staffer Jared Kushner.

The court documents say Flynn called a senior official at Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort to discuss a planned phone call with Sergey Kislyak, who was then the Russian ambassador, and phoned again later to provide an update on the conversation. In that call with Kislyak, he persuaded the Russians not to retaliate against U.S. sanctions levelled by Barack Obama.

In another case, Flynn, according to court documents, was directed by a "very senior member" of the incoming administration in December to try persuading other countries to stop a U.S.-backed resolution on Israeli settlements at the UN.

Flynn has pleaded guilty to making numerous lies about those calls.

His arrest left two unanswered questions: Why did Flynn and other administration members repeatedly make false statements about these conversations? And what was it that persuaded the Russians to lay off retaliatory measures?

Administration foes say that information could lead to the one cardinal question at the heart of the Mueller probe, which is whether members of the Trump campaign committed crimes that assisted the Russian government in its attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election.

Trump's defenders say there's no evidence of any of this. They suggest the Mueller probe is off chasing red herrings as four people have been charged so far and none of the crimes involve election collusion.

Former campaign manager Paul Manafort and an assistant have been charged with financial crimes and making false statements to police, a foreign-policy adviser has pleaded guilty to lying and Flynn is the fourth defendant nabbed.

One person weighing in Friday was James Comey.

He was the former FBI director fired by the president while investigating the Flynn case. Comey tweeted a verse from the biblical book of Amos: "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream."

Another party involved chose not to weigh in. Hillary Clinton refused to comment on a rather ironic turn of events, given that it was Flynn at last year's Republican convention who helped popularize the campaign-rally chant of "Lock Her Up."

As he left a federal courthouse Friday, where he pleaded guilty, Flynn was greeted outside with heckles and a cardboard sign that offered a personal twist on that now-iconic campaign chant.

The hecklers, and the sign, said: "Lock Him Up."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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