Friday morning, Michael Flynn pled guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI. The charges (read the court document here) regard statements Flynn—who served for 24 days as President Trump’s National Security Adviser—made to the FBI last January about the content of calls he had in December with the Russian Ambassador, in which Flynn denied he discussed the sanctions the Obama administration was about to place on Russia for its interference on behalf of President Trump in the 2016 campaign. In that call Flynn asked Kislyak to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the US imposed on Russia that day.” And in a previously undisclosed call, Flynn also asked the Ambassador to “delay or defeat” a UN Security Council vote about sanctions against Israel.
Flynn said in a public statement that in exchange for the plea he will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference and possible conspiracy with Trump campaign officials.
Here are the implications. They are possibly, not to overstate this, devastating.
1. Donald Trump is, without any doubt, done for directing the conspiracy between his campaign and the Russian government
If this report is true, it’s the biggest bombshell today: ABC reports (that’s through the that Flynn’s testimony will include him admitting that Mr. Trump instructed him directly to contact the Russians during the campaign.
This means that Trump directed campaign efforts to conspire with Russia to undermine the democratic process, foment discord in the United States, and to help him cheat to win the presidency by defaming his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.
That’s what this whole case has been about. If Trump indeed directed the conspiracy, game over. As of this writing the ABC report, which cited a “Flynn confidant,” hasn’t been confirmed by an outside source.
2. Jared Kushner is done
Flynn’s plea deal also includes that he will testify that senior Trump transition officials directed him to contact the Russians regarding the Kislyak calls. This almost doubtlessly includes Jared Kushner, who was bunkered December 29 in Mar-a-Lago with Trump and other transition officials, such as Reince Priebus. This would be a violation of the Logan Act, which restricts anyone outside the US government from conducting policy discussions with foreign governments.
Note that Flynn also lied to the FBI about a call with Kislyak we hadn't known about: On December 22 he asked the Russian Ambassador to “delay or defeat” a UN Security Council resolution (!!!) condemning Israeli settlements. Last week we learned Mueller was investigating Kushner for his role in this same effort.
3. Mike Pence is done
If Pence was at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, as this obscure report says he was, Pence is in a lot of trouble. This means he was almost certainly aware of Flynn's calls with Kislyak about sanctions. There were SIX of these calls.
The reason Pence is in trouble goes beyond the Logan Act, which he would have violated, and runs over into obstruction of justice. Pence lied multiple times to the public that Flynn didn't discuss sanctions with Kislyak and has since gone on record defending his ignorance of the calls. We'll get to obstruction of justice conspiracy soon, but this is a major part of it and would indicate pattern of intent to obstruct justice on Pence's part. Flynn was fired ostensibly for lying to Mike Pence about the nature of those calls.
Even if Pence somehow was kept out the loop entirely, the other senior Trump officials who did order Flynn to discuss sanctions never came forward, allowing the Vice President to mislead the American public and not rectifying that for a full month.
If Trump was also indeed out of the loop here, which is impossible to imagine, then these senior officials didn't ever inform him of this conspiracy, either. Including his son-in-law and main confidant.
4. Trump is absolutely done, part II
Of course Trump was also at Mar-a-Lago when Flynn called Kislyak. This means Trump himself would have violated the Logan Act by going around the back of the Obama administration to conduct government negotiations with a foreign power, a federal crime. He would almost undoubtedly be impeached and quite likely removed from office.
This would also indicate, yet again, that Trump had no problem working illegally with the Russian government. It would also mean that his tweet a week later, saying “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA,” is of course complete bullshit. So is everything else he's ever said about Russia. Why all the lies? He's guilty.
5. Trump is absolutely done, part III
Here's Trump's tweet the day Flynn asked Kislyak to block the UN resolution on Israel. If Trump directed Kushner to help block the deal, which it looks almost certain he did, he'd have violated the Logan Act here, too.
6. Kushner is done, part II
Israel had reached out to Kushner for help blocking the UN resolution against them. Again, Flynn spoke to “senior transition officials” about this stuff. Yet more evidence Kushner violated the Logan Act.
7. Kushner is done, part III
Kushner and Flynn sneaked Russian Ambassador Kislyak into Trump Tower earlier in December. There's no C-SPAN video of Kislyak entering, which means they wanted the meeting to be secret. Neither Flynn nor Kushner disclosed this meeting, of course.
Kushner has repeatedly and then repeatedly again lied about his meetings with foreign contacts. That's also a crime.
8. Trump is done, part III
Now we're moving into obstruction of justice. Trump fired Flynn in mid-February, weeks after learning he'd lied about the call. The day after what Trump said he “first learned” about Flynn's lie to the FBI, January 27, he invited then-FBI Director James Comey to dinner, during which he asked for Comey's “loyalty.” Two days after Trump fired Flynn, Trump asked Comey whether he could “see his way to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” In May, Trump fired Comey in an attempt to terminate the Russia investigation.
Trump has shown, repeatedly, he has intended to obstruct justice. Flynn's testimony will compound this to a point where obstruction charges are almost irrefutable. To learn the details about the administration's conspiracy to obstruct justice, including about the implications for Flynn himself, check out those pieces, as well as this one. focusing on Pence's role.
9. Kushner and Pence are done, part IV/II
Kushner and Pence were in the room in February, along with Reince Priebus (who was also at MAL on December 29), when Trump asked them to leave the room so he could speak with Comey. Kushner reportedly lingered and had to be asked to leave a second time. Kushner and Pence were two of the strongest advocates for Trump to fire Comey. Additionally, White House Counsel Don McGahn, whom Sally Yates first informed about Flynn's lie, advocated strongly for Comey's firing.
There's a huge constellation in the intent to obstruct justice, ranging from Flynn's calls to his firing to asking Comey to interfere to firing Comey to asking intelligence officials to block the investigation to asking Senators to stop their investigation to Trump's anger at Jeff Sessions to his tweets denying the Russian “hoax” as a conspiracy by the Democrats to his writing Donald Trump Jr.'s misleading statement about his meeting with Russian government representatives in Trump Tower last June. Read more about how obstruction charges would look here and here and here.
10. Mike Flynn is a f***ing traitor
The only explanation for Flynn being charged with one count of lying to the FBI is that he's giving Mueller big fish, including Trump. Flynn faces charges ranging from failure to disclose his activities as a foreign agent to conspiracy to kidnap (exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen, on behalf of Turkey). Those are serious, serious charges.
I don't know if this registers with most of the public yet, but the fact that the incoming Trump administration ACTIVELY WENT BEHIND THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION'S BACK AND REACHED OUT TO A FOREIGN ADVERSARY TO GET THEM TO VETO A UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION is an immense betrayal of the United States government.
Then in January, Flynn as National Security Adviser vetoed US military plans in Syria that Turkey had opposed. At the time Flynn was under DOJ investigation for not disclosing he was a foreign agent of Turkish government influence.
11. The White House is pleased as punch!
White House sources said of the Flynn news: “People in the building are very happy. This doesn't lead back to Trump in any way, shape or form.” The source noted that Flynn is being charged for making false statements, but not for any improper actions during the campaign.
“This is a further indication that there's nothing there,” the source said. “This is a win for the White House.” Another source privy to the White House legal team's thinking told CNN that Flynn's deal “is not going to be a problem” for the President.
In a statement the White House tried to distance itself from Flynn, calling him the “former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days” whom Trump fired for lying, and “a former Obama administration official.”
For 18 of those days, Flynn wasn't fired, even though Trump knew he'd lied. Flynn was also a high-ranking and enduring member of the Trump campaign, the transition team, and the Trump administration.
But I'll let James Comey offer the last word. Here's his tweet this morning: