Ex-Trump adviser Flynn charged with lying to FBI in Russia probe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI, according to court documents released on Friday, in an escalation of an investigation into alleged ties to Russia that has cast a cloud over President Donald Trump’s administration.
The Office of the Special Counsel said Flynn was charged with making false statements about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
The office, which is investigating accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and potential collusion by Trump’s campaign, said a plea hearing for Flynn had been set for 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) on Friday.
Flynn was expected to plead guilty. He had turned himself in to the FBI, two federal law enforcement officials told Reuters.
Flynn, a retired Army general who was fired from his White House post in February for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, is a central figure in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
He is the second former senior aide to Trump to be charged in the probe. Mueller’s investigation and several congressional probes into the matter have dogged Trump’s administration since the Republican president took office on Jan. 20.
Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s presidential campaign for several months last year, was charged in October with conspiring to launder money, conspiracy against the United States and failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.
Manafort, who did not serve in Trump’s administration, and a business associate who was charged with him, pleaded not guilty.
‘LOCK HER UP’
Flynn was also a senior adviser to Trump before the president took office. He was known for vitriolic campaign
appearances, notably leading Trump supporters’ chants of “Lock Her Up,” in reference to Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and accusations she misused email while she was secretary of state.
In the filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the special counsel’s office said Flynn made false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Jan. 24.
Flynn falsely told FBI officials that in December 2016 he did not ask Russia’s ambassador to the United States to refrain from escalating the situation after Washington had imposed sanctions on Moscow, according to the filing.
The sanctions were imposed by outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama.
Flynn also falsely stated that he did not recall the Russian ambassador telling him that Moscow had chosen to moderate its response to U.S. sanctions as a result of his request, the document alleged.
The filing, dated Nov. 30, also said Flynn falsely stated that he did not ask the Russian ambassador earlier in December to delay a vote or defeat a pending U.N. Security Council resolution, and that the ambassador never described Russia’s response to his request.
Moscow has denied a conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that it meddled in the election campaign to try to sway the vote in Trump’s favor. Trump has denied any collusion by his campaign.
Reporting by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Frances Kerry