Guilty: Michael Flynn admits in court to lying about Russian communication

Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty Friday morning to lying to FBI investigators probing the Trump presidential campaign’s ties to Russia. 

Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to federal investigators. His plea was entered before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington, D.C.

Flynn entered and left the federal courthouse without speaking to reporters waiting outside.

In a statement he issued in conjunction with his plea agreement, Flynn said he is “working to set things right” by accepting responsibility for his actions. He admitted he is cooperating fully with special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.

“After over 33 years of military service to our country, including nearly five years in combat away from my family, and then my decision to continue to serve the United States, it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in his statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. 

“But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. 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.”

Flynn is the fourth person -- and the first White House aide -- charged in Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections. Charges were filed last month against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his business associate Rick Gates and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. 

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty Oct. 5 to making false statements to federal investigators.

Court documents released Friday accused Flynn of making false statements to FBI investigators in January, just days after Trump was sworn into office. Flynn resigned Feb. 13 amid the allegations that he lied about communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Reports from the Associated Press and ABC News indicate that part of Flynn’s plea deal includes his promise to testify that Trump’s transition team directed him to make contact with Russian officials.

A White House lawyer said in a statement that Flynn’s guilty plea does not implicate anyone other than the retired general.

“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year,” attorney Ty Cobb said. “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

Cobb described Flynn as a “former Obama administration official” who was “at the White House for 25 days” during Trump’s administration. 

The indictment made public Friday stated that Flynn lied about conversations he had with Kislyak in December, during the Trump administration’s transition and before he officially became Trump’s national security advisor. Investigators state that Flynn lied about asking Kislyak on Dec. 22 to “delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.”

Read the indictment against Michael Flynn

Flynn also lied about his request to Kislyak on Dec. 29 that the ambassador “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day,” the indictment read. 

“Flynn 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 court document said

Flynn is also under fire for a 2015 speaking engagement in Russia. He was paid $45,000 for the event, but it was not clear if he received the required permission from U.S. officials or whether he reported being paid for the speech, as mandated by law. 

Flynn resigned after reports surfaced indicating that he lied to then-Vice President Elect Mike Pence about his communications with Russian officials. His 24-day tenure as national security advisor was the shortest in the office’s history.

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Lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee said in April that Flynn failed to register as a lobbyist while working on Turkey’s behalf. Flynn's consulting firm accepted $530,000 for work with a firm that is associated with Turkey's government, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that Flynn’s lawyer filed paperwork with the Justice Department in February disclosing that he had done lobbying work that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey” between August and November 2016. 

The New York Times reported in August that investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller asked the White House for documents related to Flynn. They also questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government, according to the Times.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress over the summer that he felt the president tried to pressure him into dropping the investigation into Flynn.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, according to a memo written by Comey, the New York Times reported. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump denied that he asked Comey to drop the investigation.

Debbie Lord and Theresa Seiger contributed to this report.

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