President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about meetings with the Russian ambassador weeks before Trump became president.
The charges were brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as part of his inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
Michael Flynn is the most senior member of the administration to be indicted.
He also revealed he was co-operating with Robert Mueller’s inquiry.
Significantly, a statement made by Michael Flynn to prosecutors appears to implicate a more senior, though unnamed, Trump team official – indicating the direction in which Robert Mueller’s investigation may be heading.
Media outlets, including NBC News, Bloomberg and the Washington Post, said the senior official is Jared Kushner – Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law.
Appearing in a federal court in Washington DC, Michael Flynn admitted to one count of knowingly making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements”.
According to an AFP reporter in court, the judge accepted Michael Flynn’s guilty plea and said he would not face trial.
Michael Flynn then issued a statement in which he said: “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.”
He said his plea and co-operation deal “reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country”.
Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant-general, is unlikely to serve more than six months in prison.
The White House issued a statement saying that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn”. A presidential appearance in front of reporters was then canceled.
As Michael Flynn was escorted from court by FBI agents, a handful of protesters shouted “criminal” and “lock him up”, echoing a chant he led against Hillary Clinton during the GOP convention in 2016.
Michael Flynn was forced to resign 23 days into his job in February, a month after he was questioned by the FBI for misleading the White House about meeting then Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition period, before Donald Trump took office.
Then, just over a week ago, media said his legal team had told the president’s lawyers they could no longer discuss the case, prompting suggestions that he had begun co-operating with prosecutors.
It is not clear why he did not tell the truth to investigators. However, it is illegal for a private US citizen, as Michael Flynn was during the transition, to conduct foreign affairs without the permission or involvement of the US government.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was reportedly offered $15 million to help forcibly remove Fethullah Gulen from the US and deliver him to Turkey.
Michael Flynn and his son discussed the alleged plot with Turkish representatives, NBC News and Wall Street Journal report.
The matter is said to be under scrutiny in the wider DoJ investigation of alleged Russian election meddling.
Michael Flynn resigned after misleading the White House about meeting an envoy.
The alleged plot to remove the Muslim cleric was first revealed in March 2017 by former CIA Director James Woolsey.
The Turkish government accuses Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, of being behind last year’s failed coup.
Fethullah Gulen is viewed as chief political rival to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly called for his extradition from the US.
According to the Wall Street Journal, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is focusing on a meeting in mid-December between Michael Flynn and Turkish officials in New York.
Michael Flynn reportedly discussed having Fethullah Gulen transported on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali.
He was serving on the White House transition team during the reported meeting, which came a month before he joined the Trump administration.
Michael Flynn also met Turkish representatives in September 2016, according to James Woolsey, a board member for Flynn’s consultancy.
James Woolsey has previously told CNN that in September, “there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Americans present at the meeting that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen”.
NBC reported that federal investigators are also looking into whether Michael Flynn tried to push for the return of Fethullah Gulen to Turkey during his time as White House national security adviser.
A spokesman for Michael Flynn’s company has denied he discussed any illegal actions with the Turks.
Michael Flynn was the first aide in Donald Trump’s White House to resign, after only 23 days on the job.
The retired lieutenant general had admitted lying to VP Mike Pence about a meeting with the Russian ambassador in which the lifting of US sanctions was discussed.
Michael Flynn also failed to register as a lobbyist for the Turkish government while he was seeking White House security clearance.
In 2016, his consultancy Flynn Intel Group was paid $530,000 for lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government – work which required him to register as “a foreign agent”.
According to his lawyer , Michael Flynn did not register because he was working for a Turkish businessman, rather than a government official.
Investigators are also looking into the actions of his son, Michel Flynn Jr., who worked closely with him at Flynn Intel Group.
According to both publications, Michael Flynn and the meeting participants discussed a way to free Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is in a US jail over charges that he evaded US sanctions on Iran.
Two other former top Trump aides – Paul Manafort and Roger Stone – have complied with the committee’s request for information, it was reported on May 22.
The panel, another congressional committee and the FBI are investigating claims that Russian hackers tried to help Donald Trump win last November’s presidential election, and whether members of his campaign colluded with the alleged Russian conspiracy.
Michael Flynn’s name has cropped up repeatedly in the matter, but his letter to the Senate panel emphasizes his refusal to comply is not an admission of wrongdoing.
The former Army lieutenant general is invoking the 5th amendment to the US constitution, which protects Americans from being legally compelled to testify against themselves in a criminal case.
Image source Wikimedia
The letter said Michael Flynn’s decision was a response to the current political climate and an “escalating public frenzy against him”.
His attorneys argued that “any testimony he provides could be used against him”.
Republican Senator James Lankford, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted: “It is Mike Flynn’s right to plead the 5th.
“We will get to the truth one way or another.”
If Michael Flynn continues to refuse to comply, it is thought Senate investigators could vote to hold him in contempt of Congress, or even refer his case for possible criminal charges.
Michael Flynn’s legal representative has previously demanded immunity from “unfair prosecution” before his client testifies.
Last week the committee’s chairman, Senator Richard Burr, told reporters that Mike Flynn was “not co-operating” with the investigation.
Shortly after Michael Flynn left the White House, the Department of Defense also launched an inquiry into payments he received for a speech in Russia and for lobbying on Turkey’s behalf.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified to senators earlier this month that she had warned the White House 18 days before Michael Flynn was fired that he was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Michael Flynn misled the White House about discussing US sanctions against Russia with Moscow’s envoy, Sergei Kislyak, before DonaldTrump took office.
President Trump injected a fresh impetus into the Senate investigation after he himself met the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the White House earlier this month.
Donald Trump said in that encounter that he had just fired the FBI director because he was a “real nut job” and his dismissal eased “a great pressure because of Russia”, the New York Times reported.
During the Oval Office chat, which media were not invited to cover, Donald Trump also reportedly divulged secret information on the military campaign against ISIS.
Israel was reportedly the source of that sensitive intelligence.
However, while in Jerusalem on May 22, President Trump told reporters repeatedly that he “never mentioned the word Israel” in his meeting with Russian officials.
Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed last week as special counsel to lead the FBI investigation following President Trump’s firing of the law enforcement agency’s director, James Comey.
The Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in last year’s election has issued a rare formal demand for documents from President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Michael Flynn has failed to voluntarily co-operate with the investigation, the committee says.
The national security adviser was forced to resign in February after failing to disclose the content of his talks with Russian diplomats.
Meanwhile, the fallout continues over the firing of the FBI director.
The White House maintained that James Comey was removed on May 9 for his handling of the inquiry over Hillary Clinton’s emails.
However, senior Democrats said James Comey had recently asked the justice department for more resources for his Trump-Russia investigation.
The Senate Intelligence Committee said it issued a subpoena after Michael Flynn rejected its request on April 28 to submit documents relevant to the investigation.
Michael Flynn, a retired army lieutenant-general, misled the White House about discussing US sanctions against Russia with the country’s envoy, Sergei Kislyak, before President Trump’s inauguration in January.
Image source Wikimedia
His links to Russia are being scrutinized by the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as part of wider investigations into claims Moscow sought to tip the election in favor of Donald Trump, and into contacts between Russia and members of the president’s campaign team.
Reaction to James Comey’s firing continued on May 10, with a White House spokeswoman saying that President Trump had been considering sacking the FBI director since he was elected.
Howver, critics accuse President Trump of firing the nation’s top law enforcement official because he was leading the Russian inquiry.
The White House has rejected calls to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin over last year’s election.
The Senate Intelligence Committee invited James Comey to testify next week.
In a farewell letter to staff, James Comey said he would not “spend time on the decision or the way it was executed”.
“I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all,” he wrote.
“It is very hard to leave a group of people who are committed only to doing the right thing,” James Comey added.
“My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”
President Trump stood by his actions, saying James Comey was fired “because he was not doing a good job”.
On May 10, Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin told media that James Comey had asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who wrote the memo on which President Trump says the sacking decision was based – for more resources for the FBI investigation.
Justice department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores called those reports “totally false”.
Either way, Republicans and Democrats vowed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees’ investigations into the Russia claims would continue.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said if President Trump believed replacing James Comey would halt the inquiries “he made a big mistake”.
The NSC advises the president on national security and foreign affairs.
Steve Bannon’s appointment in January raised fears that the circle of top advisers was being politicized.
Analysts say the latest moves show President Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. HR McMaster, reshaping the NSC team appointed by his predecessor.
The previous national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, was fired after just three weeks and three days in the job after it emerged he had misled the vice-president over his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US.
In its January 27 memorandum elevating Steve Bannon, the White House had also downgraded the military chiefs of staff, provoking widespread criticism in Washington’s foreign policy and security establishment.
The director of national intelligence and the joint chiefs were advised they only needed to attend NSC meetings when discussions pertained to their areas.
The White House bridled in January at criticism of the Bannon move, pointing out that President Barack Obama‘s former adviser, David Axelrod, regularly attended NSC meetings.
However, David Axelrod was never appointed to the principals committee, as Steve Bannon was.
His links to Russia are being scrutinized by the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as part of wider investigations into claims Russia sought to help Donald Trump win the presidential election, and into contacts between Russia and members of President Trump’s campaign team.
Robert Kelner said in a statement that his client “has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit”.
He said he would not comment on his discussions with congressional panels conducting the investigation.
The lawyer said the media was awash with “unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo”.
Image source Wikimedia
“No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized, witch-hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution,” Robert Kelner said.
Three other former Trump aides, former campaign chief Paul Manafort and former advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page, have offered to testify without requesting immunity.
The Senate Intelligence Committee opened its hearing on March 30 with one member saying Moscow had sought to “hijack” the US election.
Democrat Mark Warner said Russia may have used technology to spread disinformation, including fake news for voters in key states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“This Russian ‘propaganda on steroids’ was designed to poison the national conversation in America,” he said.
Republican panel chairman Richard Burr warned: “We are all targets of a sophisticated and capable adversary.”
Richard Burr also confirmed there had been “conversations” about interviewing Michael Flynn, but his appearance had not been confirmed.
Donald Trump regularly dismisses the claims as “fake news” and Russia has also ridiculed the allegations.
Vladimir Putin did so again on March 30 at an Arctic forum, describing them as “nonsense” and “irresponsible”.
Michael Flynn, a retired army lieutenant-general, initially denied having discussed US sanctions against Russia with the country’s ambassador, Sergei Kislyak.
However, he stood down after details of his phone call emerged, along with reports that the Department of Justice had warned the White House about Michael Flynn misleading officials and being vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
At last summer’s GOP convention, Michael Flynn led chants of “lock her up” aimed at Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server.
In September, Michael Flynn said in a TV interview that it was unacceptable that some of the Democratic candidate’s aides had been granted immunity from prosecution.
“When you get given immunity that means you’ve probably committed a crime,” Michael Flynn told NBC News.
President Donald Trump has picked Lt. Gen. Herbert Raymond McMaster to replace Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Michael Flynn was fired after just three weeks and three days in the job.
H.R. McMaster served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he worked on a government anti-corruption drive.
President Trump’s first choice, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the role, citing “personal reasons”.
Donald Trump has praised H.R. McMaster as “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience” who is “highly respected by everybody in the military”.
Image source Wikimedia
H.R. McMaster does not appear to have close ties to Moscow, and was recently commissioned to study the ways the US could counter some of Russia’s military advances.
He is no stranger to questioning authority. In a 2014 interview, he said: “The commanders that I’ve worked for, they want frank assessments, they want criticism and feedback.”
Time magazine named H.R. McMaster as one of its 100 most influential people in the world in 2014, saying he “might be the 21st Century Army’s pre-eminent warrior-thinker”.
He criticized the US military’s involvement in the Vietnam War in his book Dereliction of Duty.
H.R. McMaster has a PhD in US history from the University of North Carolina.
He has said it is “a privilege… to be able to continue serving our nation” and that he looks forward to joining the national security team.
The role involves serving as an independent adviser to the president on issues of national security and foreign policy.
It is one of the most senior roles in the US government. Observers say the role’s influence varies from administration to administration, but the adviser is seen as one of the president’s key confidantes.
The adviser attends the National Security Council, and may act as a broker between different government departments.
The role is not subject to US Senate confirmation.
President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Jeff Sessions, a former prosecutor, was turned down for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of alleged racist remarks.
Donald Trump has also nominated Mike Pompeo as CIA director and retired Lt-Gen Michael Flynn has been appointed national security adviser.
His latest picks were praised on Twitter by David Duke, former leader of the white supremacist KKK group.
In a statement, Donald Trump called Jeff Sessions a “world class legal mind”.
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“Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him,” he added.
Jeff Sessions, 69, said in a statement that he “enthusiastically” embraced Donald Trump’s vision for “one America and his commitment to equal justice under law”.
“I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality,” he said.
Jeff Sessions and Gen. Michael Flynn, 57, have been close allies of Donald Trump since the early days of his campaign and share many of his views.
Jeff Sessions opposes any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and was an enthusiastic backer of Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
In 1986, Jeff Sessions was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship, but was rejected because of allegations that he had made racist remarks. He strongly denied the claims.
Gen. Michael Flynn, a vocal critic of the Obama administration since he was ousted as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, agrees with Donald Trump on renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal, strengthening ties with Russia and intensifying the fight against Islamic extremists.
He once tweeted that fear of Muslims was “rational”.
Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, 52, is a supporter of the conservative Tea Party movement. He originally backed Marco Rubio as the Republican candidate but supported Donald Trump after he won the nomination.
Mike Pompeo has also been a fierce critic of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, tweeting on November 17: “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”