Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Trump, has been charged with lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian ambassador after the election and is expected to plead guilty in a plea hearing on Friday.
The news comes after reports last week that Flynn’s attorneys had cut off communication with Trump’s legal team, a move that signaled that Flynn was likely in negotiations with Special Counsel Robert Mueller for some type of plea deal. On Friday, Mueller’s office announced that a plea hearing for Flynn has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in a federal court.
“The retired Army lieutenant general is expected to plead guilty to a criminal information charging him with knowingly making materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements to FBI agents,” CNBC reports. The false statements revolve around Flynn’s claims about his talks with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak:
Specifically, Flynn is accused of falsely claiming that he had not asked Russia’s ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak last Dec. 29 “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day.”
Flynn also allegedly lied by telling the FBI “he did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request,” the information says.
Plea deals are usually only offered if the investigation believes the source can provide key information relevant to the larger case; Trump critics are hoping that Flynn will finally provide some of the thus far elusive “collusion” evidence that will ensnare either more of Trump’s associates or the president himself.
While the plea deal is certainly news, that Flynn made false claims about his talks with Kislyak during the transition is not; in fact, his false statements to Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations is why he was forced to resign from the administration after holding the position of national security advisor for less than a month.
Since Mueller’s investigation first began, Flynn has been among the names on the short list of persons of interest. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has been charged with a 12-count indictment for actions that took place before he joined Trump’s campaign, was another key name that many expected to be targeted by Mueller.
UPDATE: Early reports suggest that Flynn will testify that candidate Trump told him to reach out to the Russians to encourage them to lay off on their backlash to U.S.-imposed sanctions. Read more here.