- Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has a plea hearing scheduled Friday morning in Virginia where he is set to plead guilty
- He has been a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation
- Mueller's office charged him with making 'false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements' - an offense which carries a maximum sentence of five years
- Criminal information says he made false statements to the FBI just four days after Trump took office
- He lied about what he had said to then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the information from the special counsel says
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office is charging former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn with lying to the FBI about Russia, in the second major legal action against a top Trump campaign or White House official, it revealed Friday.
He is expected to plead guilty to the charge. The maximum sentence is five years.
According to an information released by Mueller's office, Flynn willfully made 'false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements in a matter within the jurisdiction' of the U.S. government, including the FBI.
Flynn arrived at court in Washington, D.C., with his wife Lori at his side.
The nature of the charge, which did not come from a federal grand jury, raised the possibility of a guilty plea that would involve cooperation with Mueller's expansive probe.
A plea would certainly be a Washington bombshell, putting a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and close friend of the president in a criminal courtroom and planting the sprawling investigation led by the no-nonsense former FBI director squarely in the White House.
Here to deal: Mike Flynn and his wife Lori arrived in court in Washington D.C. to plead guilty to a federal judge of lying to the FBI. He faces five years - but is almost certain to have made a deal with Robert Mueller which could implicate others
Guilty: Criminal liar Mike Flynn arrives at court in Washington D.C. to plead guilty to lying to the FBI, an offense carrying up to five years in prison
Family support: Mike Flynn's wife Lori was at his side as he arrived in court. The two were high school sweethearts and married in 1981
Ready to deal: Mike Flynn, whose brief White House career is now being subjected to Robert Mueller's forensic scrutiny is in cout and due to plead guilty to lying to the FBI
This is it: Rober Muller is netting his biggest fish as he takes down Mike Flynn, who was Trump's National Security Advisor, with a guilty plea to a small count - a clear sign a deal is in the works
Received the lies: Sergey Kislyak was Russia's ambassador to the U.S. when Flynn spoke to him before Trump's inauguration. Four days later Flynn lied to the FBI about what he said to the Putin diplomat
Flynn's hearing is taking place before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras at a D.C. federal courthouse.
According to the information, which includes just a single count, Flynn lied just days before President Trump took office about his contacts with Russia's then ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
Mueller's team has been investigating Russian interference in the U.S. elections, as well as possible obstruction of justice and other issues.
According to the feds, Flynn stated that on December 29 he 'did not ask the Government of Russia's Ambassador to the United States ("Russian Ambassador") to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day.'
That relates to the sanctions President Obama slapped on Russia shortly before leaving office for election interference.
Flynn also stated that he 'did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.'
Russia ultimately chose that course of action, failing to retaliate even after Obama confiscated diplomatic compounds that Trump would later return.
Flynn's contacts with Russia took place while the prior administration was already in place – and Trump and his team did not yet have formal governing power.
Flynn also stated that in an additional instance, on December 22, 2016, he ‘did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United National Security Council resolution; and that the Russian Ambassador subsequently never described to Flynn Russia’s response to his request.’
The Security Council resolution condemned Israel for new settlement activity. In a rare diplomatic break from a key ally, the Obama administration abstained from the resolution.
According to a report in Foreign Policy, Trump's transition team vigorously tried to lobby against the resolution, breaking with tradition that the U.S. government speak with one diplomatic voice.
Flynn himself called foreign ambassadors of security council members, including Uruguay and Malaysia.
According to the information, Flynn made his false statements to the FBI on January 24 of this year – just four days after Trump took office.
Lying to the FBI is a felony charge which carries a fine and up to five years in prison.
In March, Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kellner, stated with respect to congressional investigators probing Russia that ‘General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,’ implying a willingness to cooperate.
Investigators early on focused not only on Flynn, but on his son, Michael Flynn, Jr.
CNN reported last month that Flynn was concerned about legal exposure born by his son.
The information released by the FBI does not mention other areas reportedly under investigation – including including potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Flynn filed amended reports after disclosures of work he had done on behalf of the government of Turkey.
A critical person in Trump's campaign and national security team, Flynn was present for consequential decisions during the formative days of the administration and functioned as a main conduit for contacts with Russian officials.
He could be an essential witness for Mueller as he investigates potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In recent days White House lawyers have downplayed the significance of Flynn's legal troubles for the president, drawing a clear line between Flynn's personal baggage and his work on the Trump campaign and the administration.
The feeling of suspense around the Mueller investigation only deepened this week with the cancellation of grand jury testimony, an ABC News report that Flynn's attorney was meeting with Mueller's team and the revelation Wednesday that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had been questioned about Flynn earlier this month by special counsel prosecutors.
The cutting of contact with Trump's legal team came last week after Kushner was questioned by Mueller's investigators, which occurred earlier this month.
In the Oval: Mike Flynn was photographed in the Oval Office with then chief strategist Steve Bannon. He had lied to the FBI just four days earlier
Notorious figure: Kisylak (right) was in communication with Flynn before Trump took office - but long after the inauguration he was invited to the Oval Office with Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, for a meeting with Trump which was photographed by Russian media, not American reporters
Key figure: Flynn worked for Turkey whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will now move into the spotlight of the Russia collusion probe but Putin remains in the spotlight
Spoke to Mueller: Jared Kushner spent 90 minutes speaking to Mueller's prosecutors about Flynn and whether there was any exculpatory information on him
The questioning was brief - 90 minutes or less - and tightly focused on Flynn. It was in part aimed at determining whether Kushner had any exculpatory information on Flynn, according to a person familiar with Mueller's investigation.
Kushner and Flynn were both prominent figures in the Trump campaign, the presidential transition and the early days of the Trump administration.
The two also took part in discussions during the presidential transition with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States at the time, about establishing a backchannel between the two countries, a possible indication of prosecutors' interest given Mueller's mandate to probe contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin.
Flynn was forced to resign from the White House in February after officials concluded that he had misled them about his contacts with Kislyak during the transition period.
Weeks before he was fired, he was interviewed by the FBI about that communication, and former FBI Director James Comey has said Flynn was under investigation for potentially lying to federal agents about the nature of their conversation.
Mueller's grand jury had planned in coming days to hear testimony from an employee of a public relations company that worked with Flynn's firm on $530,000 worth of lobbying and investigative research for a Turkish businessman.
The testimony was slated to focus on Flynn's firm's interactions with congressional staff. But it was abruptly postponed by prosecutors.
The details of Kushner's questioning and the postponement of the grand jury testimony were confirmed by people familiar with Mueller's investigation.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation.
Asked about the meeting with Mueller, Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, did not elaborate on the nature of the question, saying only in a statement his client 'has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so.'
Mueller's spokesman, Peter Carr, has yet to comment on the special counsel's ongoing investigation that has now stretched into its seventh month.
Instead, the special counsel has decided to speak in indictments and plea agreements. In the meantime, Washington - and the country - wait for the next one