President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December, becoming the first senior White House official to cut a cooperation deal in the special counsel’s wide-ranging inquiry into election interference.
Mr. Flynn’s discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, were part of a coordinated effort by Mr. Trump’s aides to create foreign policy before they were in power, documents released as part of Mr. Flynn’s plea agreement show. Their efforts undermined the existing policy of President Barack Obama and flouted a warning from a senior Obama administration official to stop meddling in foreign affairs before the inauguration.
The documents do not disclose what Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Flynn’s discussions. But in at least one instance, prosecutors say, Mr. Flynn was directed by a “very senior member” of the presidential transition team to discuss a United Nations resolution. Mr. Trump’s lawyers believe that unnamed aide was Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, according to a lawyer briefed on the matter.
The transition team was led by Vice President Mike Pence. Its top members included Mr. Kushner; Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s first chief of staff; and K.T. McFarland, who was Mr. Flynn’s deputy and was later appointed to be the ambassador to Singapore. Mr. Flynn spoke to Ms. McFarland about another of his conversations with Mr. Kislyak, according to the lawyer.
Mr. Flynn’s decision to plead guilty to lying to investigators about those conversations marked a significant new phase in the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and a politically treacherous development for the president and his closest aides, whose activities in the West Wing are being scrutinized by F.B.I. agents, lawmakers, federal prosecutors and the media.
The admissions by Mr. Flynn have the potential to reshape the public’s understanding of what the president’s associates said and did in the days after Mr. Trump’s unexpected election victory. And they suggest that prosecutors now have a cooperative source of information from inside the Oval Office during the administration’s chaotic first weeks.
Russian Hacking and Influence in the U.S. Election
Complete coverage of Russia’s campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn’s Guilty Plea Looms Over a White House on the Verge of a Tax Cut Success
Mr. Flynn’s plea deal could deeply undercut the claims made in January by Mr. Trump and his aides that they were misled by Mr. Flynn about his discussion with Russians regarding sanctions imposed on Moscow by the Obama administration over the election interference. In fact, the documents say multiple members of the team coordinated the specifics of Mr. Flynn’s outreach to Russia and knew that the conversations were about sanctions.
Mr. Flynn’s agreement also provided new context for Mr. Trump’s efforts to get F.B.I. officials to back off their investigation of Mr. Flynn.
You can read the first of Flynn’s Statement of the Offense