Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, the U.S. Special Counsel’s Office announced on Dec. 1.
In his plea agreement, Flynn admitted he lied to FBI agents about two discussions he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in December 2016 when Flynn was still a private citizen and before Trump took office.
In the first instance, Flynn – who was interviewed by FBI agents on Jan. 24 – admitted he lied to FBI agents about a conversation he had with Kislyak on Dec. 22, 2016, about an upcoming U.N. Security Council resolution. Although he initially denied it to FBI agents, Flynn now admits that he asked Russia to delay or defeat a U.N. Security Council resolution, approved Dec. 23, 2016, that would have condemned Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration had agreed to allow the resolution to come up for a vote over the objection of Israel.
The incoming Trump administration opposed the U.N. resolution, and Flynn was directed by a “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team” to contact foreign governments, including Russia … to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution,” according to the plea agreement. The “very senior member” of the transition team was not identified.
A day later, the U.N. resolution would pass, with Russia voting in favor and the U.S. abstaining from voting.
Flynn also admitted that he lied to investigators about a Dec. 29 conversation that he had with Kislyak. On the day of the conversation, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Flynn called to discuss the new sanctions with “a senior official” of the Trump transition team “who was with other senior members of the Presidential Transition Team at the Mar-a-Lago resort” that Trump owns in Florida.
Immediately after the call to Mar-a-Lago, Flynn called Kislyak and “requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the U.S. Sanctions in a reciprocal manner,” the plea agreement said. Kislyak agreed that Russia would “moderate its response to those sanctions” as a result of his request, according to the U.S. special prosecutor’s office.
But, when interviewed by the FBI on Jan. 24, Flynn denied making such a request and could not recall if Kislyak agreed to his request.
The former White House aide also acknowledged that he made “false statements and omissions” on documents filed with the Justice Department regarding payments that his company, the Flynn Intel Group Inc., received for lobbying work that principally benefited the government of Turkey, according to the plea agreement. Flynn retroactively filed foreign lobbying reports on March 7 for work that he did during the presidential campaign in 2016.
Flynn is now cooperating with the special prosecutor’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential campaign and whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Below are some key events in the Russia investigation involving Flynn from our larger story, “Timeline of Russia Investigation.”
Dec. 10 – Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn speaks at RT’s anniversary conference in Moscow. RT is a Russian government-funded TV station once known as Russia Today. Flynn, who would become a foreign policy adviser to Trump during the campaign and national security adviser in the Trump administration, sits next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the event.
In remarks at the event, Flynn is critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and supportive of working with Russia to battle ISIS. (It is later learned that he was paid $45,000 for his appearance, and failed to report the income on his government financial disclosure forms.)
Feb. 26 – Reuters reports that Flynn “has been informally advising Trump” on foreign policy during the presidential campaign.
Aug. 17 – Trump receives his first intelligence briefing at FBI headquarters in New York City. He is joined by Flynn and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Nov. 8 – Trump is elected 45th president of the United States.
Nov. 10 – Trump meets with President Barack Obama at the White House. Obama reportedly warns Trump against hiring Flynn.
Nov. 18 – The president-elect selects Flynn as his national security adviser.
Dec. 1 – Flynn and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, meet with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, at Trump Tower. (The White House did not acknowledge the meeting occurred until it was disclosed in March 2017. In a statement to congressional investigators on July 24, 2017, Kushner described the contents of the meeting. He said Kislyak “wanted to convey information from what he called his ‘generals’” about “U.S. policy in Syria.” Kushner said the exchange of information did not occur at that time because neither party could arrange a secure line of communication. “I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn. The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration,” Kushner’s statement reads.)
Dec. 22 – Flynn calls Kislyak and asks if Russia would delay or defeat an upcoming U.N. Security Council resolution vote that sought to condemn Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration agreed to allow the resolution to come up for a vote – angering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (A day later, the U.N. resolution would pass, with Russia voting in favor and the U.S. abstaining from voting.)
Dec. 29 – With less than a month remaining in office, Obama announces “a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016.”
In a phone call with Kislyak, Flynn asks that Russia refrain from retaliating to the U.S. sanctions. Kislyak agrees that Russia would “moderate its response to those sanctions” as a result of his request, according to charges later filed against Flynn by the U.S. special prosecutor’s office. (Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador would not become public until next year.)
Dec. 30 – Russian President Putin issues a statement saying that Russia would not retaliate for the U.S. sanctions. Putin says he hoped to improve relations with the United States “based on the policies of the Trump Administration.”
Trump tweets, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
Jan. 12 – The Washington Post reports that Flynn and Kislyak spoke on Dec. 29, the day that the U.S. announced new sanctions on Russia in response to the cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denies that the call was about U.S. sanctions. “The call centered on the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in,” Spicer said. “And they exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it, plain and simple.”
Jan. 15 – Vice President-elect Mike Pence says Flynn and Kislyak did not discuss U.S. sanctions on Russia. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence says.
Jan. 20 – Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
Jan. 22 – On the same day that Flynn is sworn in as the national security adviser, the Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated Flynn’s communications with Russian officials.
Jan. 24 – Two days after he takes office as national security adviser, Flynn is interviewed by FBI agents. He is asked about two conversations that he had with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in December 2016 when Flynn was still a private citizen and before Trump took office.
Flynn tells the FBI agents that he did not ask Kislyak, in a Dec. 29, 2016, conversation, for Russia to refrain from retaliating after the Obama administration announced sanctions that day against Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections. He also says that he did not ask Kislyak, in a Dec. 22, 2016, conversation for Russia to delay or defeat a U.N. Security Council resolution, approved Dec. 23, 2016, that would have condemned Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Flynn would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about both of those conversations with Kislyak.
Jan. 25 – The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
Jan. 26 – Acting Attorney General Sally Yates meets with White House counsel Donald McGahn in his office. She tells McGahn that high-ranking administration officials, including Vice President Pence, had made statements “about General Flynn’s conduct that we knew to be untrue.” She was referring to administration statements that Flynn did not discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador. (Her meeting with McGahn would not be disclosed until Yates testified before Congress on May 8.)
Jan. 28 – Trump receives a congratulatory phone call from Putin.
Feb. 9 – The Washington Post reports that Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials,” citing unnamed current and former officials.
Feb. 13 – Flynn resigns. He acknowledges that he misled Pence and others in the administration about his conversations with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Flynn says.
Feb. 14 – Trump privately meets with FBI Director James Comey in the Oval Office. Comey says that the president brought up the FBI investigation of Flynn. “He then said, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.’ … I did not say I would ‘let this go,’” Comey would later recall. (Comey gave this account of his meeting with Trump in written testimony for his June 8 hearing before the Senate intelligence committee. The account was first reported May 16 by the New York Times. The White House issued a statement at that time saying the Times story is “not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”)
Feb. 15 – A day after Trump reportedly asked Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn, the FBI director tells U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that “he did not want to be left alone again with the president,” according to a New York Times story published June 6. (Comey also confirms the Times account in his June 8 Senate testimony.)
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asks FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe if the agency would help the White House knock down news stories about contacts between Trump aides and Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Feb. 16 – Trump is asked at a press conference, “Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss the sanctions with the Russian ambassador?” He responds, “No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t.”
March 7 – Flynn retroactively registers as a foreign lobbyist for work that he and his company, the Flynn Intel Group, did for a Turkish company during the presidential campaign that primarily benefited the Republic of Turkey. Flynn reports his consulting firm being paid $530,000. According to USA Today‘s report of Flynn’s lobbying work, “the Flynn Intel Group hired researchers to examine Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive Islamic cleric who lives in exile in rural Pennsylvania. [Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has blamed Gulen’s opposition group for an attempted 2016 coup and has sought his extradition. On Election Day, The Hill newspaper published a Flynn op-ed that called Gulen ‘radical cleric’ and said the U.S. government should ‘not provide him a safe haven.’”
March 30 – Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, says in a statement that his client is willing to testify before Congress if Flynn receives immunity. “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Kelner’s statement says.
March 31 – Trump tweets: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”
The White House releases a revised financial disclosure form for Flynn that shows he received speaking fees from RT TV, the Russian television network, and two other Russian firms. Flynn failed to report that income when he initially filed his disclosure form in February.
April 28 – The Senate intelligence committee requests that Flynn turn over any documents relevant to its investigation into the Russian interference with the election. (Flynn declined, and the committee would later subpoena the documents, which Flynn turned over on June 6.)
May 8 – Yates testifies at a Senate hearing that she had two in-person meetings and one phone call with McGahn, the White House counsel, to discuss Flynn’s meetings with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Her first meeting with McGahn was on Jan. 26, as mentioned above.
May 9 – Trump fires Comey. A White House statement said that Trump acted “based on the clear recommendations” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a two-and-a-half-page memo, Rosenstein cited Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official government business while she was the secretary of state under Obama. Rosenstein criticized Comey for holding a press conference on July 5, 2016, to publicly announce his recommendation to not charge Clinton, and for disclosing on Oct. 28, 2016, that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Clinton.
May 10 – The Senate intelligence committee subpoenas Flynn seeking “documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.”
May 11 – Trump says in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey. The president says he would have fired Comey with or without Rosenstein’s recommendation. “He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”
May 16 – The New York Times reports that Trump asked Comey at a Feb. 14 dinner meeting to shut down the FBI investigation of Flynn. (See the Feb. 14 entry.)
May 17 – Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, appoints former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to investigate any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Rosenstein makes the appointment instead of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from any federal investigations involving the 2016 election.
May 18 – At a press conference with the president of Colombia, Trump denies that he asked Comey to close down the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. “No. No. Next question,” Trump said.
May 31 – The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issues subpoenas for testimony, documents and business records from Flynn and Michael Cohen, a personal attorney to the president.
June 6 – Flynn provides more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate intelligence committee, CNN reports. The committee subpoenaed the documents on May 10.
The Washington Post reports that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in a March 22 meeting “if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe.” The report was based on “officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.” Brian Hale, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, issues a statement that said Coats “never felt pressured by the President or anyone else in the Administration to influence any intelligence matters or ongoing investigations.”
June 8 – Comey testifies under oath before the Senate intelligence committee. As his written testimony detailed, Comey says the president asked him for his loyalty at a Jan. 27 dinner and asked him to drop the Flynn investigation at a Feb. 14 meeting. He also says Trump asked that the FBI “lift the cloud” over his administration and publicly announce that the president is personally not under investigation on March 30 and April 11.
Comey also discloses that he gave a copy of his memo about his meeting with the president on Feb. 14 to a friend with instructions that he share the contents of the memo with a reporter. He says he did so “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
Asked if the president’s request to drop the Flynn investigation amounts to obstruction of justice, Comey says: “I don’t know. That – that’s [special counsel] Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”
June 9 – At a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Trump denies that he told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. “I didn’t say that,” Trump says. He also says that he never asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him. “I hardly know the man,” Trump says. “I’m not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance.”
June 15 – The Washington Post reports that the FBI and federal prosecutors have been “examining the financial dealings” of Kushner, Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Dec. 1 – Flynn pleads guilty to making false statements to the FBI and agrees to cooperate with the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. “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,” Flynn says in a statement.