While pleading guilty to making false statements to FBI agents investigating Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, Mike Flynn admitted to receiving orders from a senior official on Trump’s transition team to illegally communicate with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other countries in order to undermine President Obama’s final actions in office. According to at least two former officials with Trump’s transition team, Jared Kushner is the “senior official” described in Flynn’s plea bargain deal.
“Michael Flynn’s guilty plea is about more than just lying to the FBI. What he lied about and when he did it are of even greater significance,” Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein said in a statement on Friday. “This shows a Trump associate negotiating with the Russians against U.S. policy and interests before Donald Trump took office and after it was announced that Russia had interfered in our election. That’s a stunning revelation and could be a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign power.
“It’s critical that we determine whether Flynn spoke with the Russians on his own initiative and who knew and approved of his actions. This is just one more proof point that these investigations must be allowed to continue without interference.”
According to Flynn’s guilty plea, a “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team illegally ordered Flynn to contact Russia and other countries to influence those governments into delaying the vote or defeat a pending UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements on December 22, 2016. Despite the fact that Flynn was a private citizen, he contacted Kislyak in an attempt to influence the Russian government’s vote.
On December 28, 2016, President Obama signed an executive order announcing sanctions against Russia in response to their interference in the presidential election. Later that day, the Russian ambassador contacted Flynn regarding the impending sanctions against his government.
On December 29, 2016, Flynn reportedly called Kushner, who was with other senior officials of Trump’s transition team at the Mar-a-Lago resort, and discussed the impact of the Russian sanctions upon the incoming administration’s foreign policy goals. Shortly after his phone call with Kushner, Flynn called Kislyak and requested that the Russian government not escalate the situation by imposing reciprocal sanctions against the U.S.
After speaking with Kislyak, Flynn immediately called Kushner again to discuss his conversation with the Russian ambassador. The next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures against the U.S. for imposing sanctions against his country.
On December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn to inform him that the Russian government would not retaliate against Obama’s sanctions. After speaking with the Russian ambassador, Flynn spoke with senior members of Trump’s transition team and informed them of his conversation with Kislyak.
During an interview with FBI agents on January 24, 2017, Flynn falsely stated that he did not ask Kislyak to retaliate against the sanctions against Russia. In addition to making false statements to federal investigators regarding his attempts to delay or defeat the UN Security Council vote, Flynn also lied about his foreign contacts, including the Turkish government, on multiple documents with the Department of Justice after assuming the office of National Security Advisor.
On Friday, Bloomberg News reported that at least two former members of Trump’s transition team identified the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the “senior official” described in Flynn’s plea agreement. Due to the fact that Flynn, Kushner, and other members of Trump’s transition team were private citizens at the time, Kushner and others could be criminally charged with violating the Logan Act, which prohibits private U.S. citizens from undermining the foreign policy of a sitting president by contacting a foreign power.