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Michael Flynn: what we know and what it means

Michael Flynn: what we know and what it means

Photo: Michael Flynn arrives in D.C. federal court Dec. 1, 2017. Credit: Reuters

By TATIANA PROPHET

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who famously served as President Donald Trump's national security adviser for 24 days, has pleaded guilty in D.C. federal court to lying to the FBI about conversations that took place with the Russian ambassador before the inauguration.

And so far, that is exactly what everyone knew he did, as early as Feb. 9.

Read the complaint filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller here.

What we didn't know is that, according to ABC News, an anonymous confidant of Flynn says that the retired lieutenant general is prepared to testify that Donald Trump had directed him during the presidential transition to contact then Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about working together to defeat ISIS in Syria.

If that is true, then the idea of collusion to win the election is still not proven. The allegation of Trump's requesting that Flynn contact Kislyak merely proves he was trying to get ahead on a relationship to defeat the Islamic State. At least for now. Is that illegal? Since Flynn spoke to Kislyak during the transition, he was technically a private citizen and could be prosecuted under the Logan Act (more on that below).

The Mueller complaint states that Flynn lied to the FBI about talking to Kislyak about the sanctions that were known to be in the works by President Barack Obama, when secretly recorded phone calls show that he did, in fact, discuss said sanctions.

It was on February 9 of this year that the world first learned about the recorded phone calls, from "current and former senior U.S. officials" speaking to the Washington Post and "current and former American officials" speaking to The New York Times. Those same officials said that Flynn's attempting diplomacy as a private citizen was "highly inappropriate."

The Post's article showed an inconsistency between what Vice President Mike Pence was telling the media (that Flynn did not discuss sanctions with Kislyak) and what the secretly recorded phone calls revealed. Here's how the phone calls were explained by the Post:

"Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters."

According to the Post, even former Obama administration holdovers that were currently serving in the government could not agree with each other on whether Flynn's conversations violated the Logan Act, a law dating back to 1799 that prohibits a U.S. citizen from discussing matters with a foreign power regarding a dispute with the United States. Read the original Logan Act here.

Those who are waiting for the smoking gun, take heart: The Post article quotes these same officials as asserting that Flynn had been in contact with Kislyak before the Nov. 8 election.

"The talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the Nov. 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said. In a recent interview, Kislyak confirmed that he had communicated with Flynn by text message, by phone and in person, but declined to say whether they had discussed sanctions."

In a statement, Flynn said: "It has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts,” Flynn said in a statement. “Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. 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.”

So far, Flynn has pleaded guilty to what secretly recorded conversations with the Russian ambassador already revealed that he did: he lied. Whether this plea is part of a bargain with the special counsel in exchange for damaging information on the President remains to be seen. So far, the anonymous confidant says the President wanted cooperation against ISIS. In the coming weeks and months, we shall see if any secretly recorded discussions of the Russian delegation show collusion with the Trump campaign to influence the election.

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