~~ By Elaine Owen, Editor ~~
President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn plead guilty Dec. 1, 2017 to one count of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Filed with his guilty plea were three documents: a criminal information statement containing the charge, a plea agreement, and a document called “Statement of the Offense.” The Fannin Sentinel obtained copies of these documents.
The charge focuses on Flynn’s false statements regarding (1) sanctions against Russia for interfering with the election and (2) a request of Russia to block a United Nations resolution relating to Israeli settlements. The plea agreement agrees not to charge Flynn for undisclosed lobbying on behalf of the government of Turkey. It makes no mention of the reported kidnapping plot against Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a potentially very serious violation of kidnapping or bribery statutes.
The Statement of the Offense makes it clear that when Flynn spoke to Russia, he was not acting on his own as some rogue player. The Statement of Offense sets out a time line indicating that Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak were being discussed in real time with a “senior member of President-elect Trump’s Transition Team” and a “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team.” The document notes that the “senior member” was with other transition officials at the Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, where President-elect Trump was staying at the time. Some reports indicate that the “senior member” is Flynn’s former deputy K.T. McFarland and the “very senior member” is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
False statements regarding Flynn’s request to the Russian Ambassador that Russia refrain from escalating the situation in response to U.S. sanctions against Russia.
During an interview by agents from the FBI on or about Jan. 24, 2018, Flynn falsely stated that he did not ask Russia’s Ambassador to the United States to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the U.s. had imposed against Russia. Flynn also falsely stated that he did not remember a follow-up conversation in which the Russian Ambassador stated that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of Flynn’s request. In truth and in fact, Flynn then and there knew that the following had occurred:
After then-President Barack Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13757 (Dec. 28, 2016) which was to take effect the following day, announcing sanctions against Russia for actions intended to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The Russian Ambassador then contacted Flynn. On or about Dec. 29, Flynn called a senior official of the Presidential Transition Team (PTT), who was with other senior members of the PTT at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. to discuss what, if anything , to communicate to the Russian Ambassador about the U.S. sanctions. On that call, Flynn and the PTT official discussed the sanctions, including the potential impact of those sanctions on the incoming administration’s foreign policy goals. The PTT official and Flynn also discussed that the members of the PTT at Mar-A-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.
Immediately after his phone call with the PTT official, Flynn called the Russian Ambassador an requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond in a reciprocal manner. Shortly after this call, Flynn reported to the PTT official the substance of his call with the Ambassador, including their discussion of U.S. sanctions.
On or about Dec. 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a statement indicating that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the US. sanctions at that time.
On or about Dec. 31, 2016, the Russian Ambassador called Flynn to inform him that Russia would not retaliate in response to Flynn’s request. After this phone call, Flynn spoke with senior members of the PTT about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador regarding the U.S. sanctions and Russia’s decision not to escalate the situation.
Another False Statement regarded Flynn’s request that foreign officials vote against or delay a United Nations Security Council resolution.
During the Jan. 24 voluntary interview, Flynn made additional false statements about calls he made to Russia and several other countries regarding a resolution submitted by Egypt to the U.N. Security Council on Dec. 21, 2016. Flynn falsely stated that he only asked the countries’ positions on the vote, and that he did not request that any of the countries take any particular action on the resolution. He also falsely stated that the Russian Ambassador never described to him Russia’s response to Flynn’s request regarding the resolution. In truth and in fact, Flynn then and there knew that the following had occurred:
On or about Dec. 21, 2016, Egypt submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council on the issue of Israeli settlements. The Council was scheduled to vote on the resolution the following day. That next day, a very senior member of the PTT directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.
On or about Dec. 22, 2016, Flynn contacted the Russian Ambassador about the pending vote. Flynn informed the Russian Ambassador about the incoming administration’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution.
On or about Dec. 23, 2016, Flynn again spoke with the Russian Ambassador, who informed Flynn that if it came to a vote, Russia would not vote against the resolution.
Other False Statements regarding Flynn’s contacts with foreign governments.
On March 7, 2017, Flynn filed multiple documents with the Department of Justice pursuant to the foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) pertaining to a project performed by him and his company, the Flynn Intel Group, Inc. (FIG), for the principal benefit of the Republic of Turkey (Turkey project). In the FARA filings, Flynn made materially false statements and omissions, including by falsely stating that FIG did not know whether or the extent to which the Republic of Turkey was involved in the Turkey project; the Turkey project was focused on improving U.S. business organizations’ confidence regarding doing business in Turkey, and an op-ed by Flynn published in The Hill on Nov. 8, 2016, was written at his own initiative; and by omitting that officials from the Republic of Turkey provided supervision and direction over the Turkey project.
Nov. 30, 2017, Flynn signed “Defendant’s Acceptance” of the statements, acknowledging that he had read every word of the Statement of the Offense or had it read to him. On the same day, the attorney for the defendant, Robert K. Kelner, signed the Attorneys’ Acknowledgment.
According to the plea agreement, Flynn knows who the “senior member,” the “very senior member,” and the “Presidential Transition Team” are and is prepared to testify about them. This disclosure sheds new light on the reports that Kushner sought a back channel for communication with Russia during the transition. Flynn likely can confirm or refute this report and explain why any back channel for communicating with Russia might have been sought. (Kushner denied it was a “secret back channel” and said communications were to be about Syria.)
Specifically, a prosecutor said, Flynn spoke to one senior official who was at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort property in Florida about what to say to Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Mueller’s charges against Flynn make it clear that he takes lying to the FBI seriously. Lying to the FBI is a significant crime because it makes it harder for investigators to uncover the truth. As a result, when FBI agents interview subjects, they show their badges to make sure that the person knows that they are in fact FBI agents. They tell the person that lying to the FBI is a crime. This occurs for two reasons, (1) to provide fair notice to the person that he should take this interview seriously and that lying brings significant consequences, and (2) to help prove at trial the essential element of the crime that the person was aware that lying to the FBI was illegal.
In a statement after the hearing, Flynn said it had been “extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts.”
“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.”
The charge against Flynn carries a maximum possible prison sentence of five years — but his plea agreement calls for a recommended sentence of no more than six months in prison.