The most significant development in the Trump-Russia scandal came today just as Republicans were gearing up to vote on their contentious tax bill. Gen. Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI and has entered a plea bargain with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The former national security adviser to President Trump is reportedly preparing to testify against Trump, members of the Trump family, and others in the White House. This is huge news, and Trump should be shaking in his boots about what a thorough cross-examination of Flynn will reveal.
Despite multiple claims by the administration that there was no communication between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian nationals, documents released by Flynn today show that multiple members of Trump’s team “coordinated the specifics of Mr. Flynn’s outreach to Russia,” according to the New York Times.
With this new information, Mueller is a lot closer to proving collusion. By striking a plea deal, Mueller may be able to gain more incriminating information on higher-ups in exchange for a lighter sentence for Flynn. As a close adviser to the campaign and later a cabinet member, Flynn has insight on Russian interactions with the campaign during the election season, as well as any communications during the administration’s transition into office.
But a separate matter could be even worse for Trump, and that is the question of whether he has obstructed justice while in office. Flynn was a central character in the Comey firing, and was himself fired as a result of his vulnerability to Russian blackmail. If Trump was aware of the extent of Flynn’s misdeeds and used that knowledge to coerce Comey to look the other way, that would be very bad for Trump. As Asha Rangappa, a legal expert at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, told Vox News, “If Trump had any knowledge of any kind of criminal liability that Flynn may have had — and he was trying to get Comey to drop the investigation — that essentially seals Mueller’s obstruction case.”
In a statement issued after his guilty plea, Michael Flynn wrote the following:
“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. I accept full responsibility for my action.”
It remains to be seen how much more Flynn will cooperate and what his revelations will mean for President Trump’s future. But a presidency that has been on shaky ground from the beginning just got even more tenuous.