TRUMP UN­FAZED BY FLYNN DEAL

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - ERIC TUCKER AND CHAD DAY news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump was de­fi­ant yes­ter­day in the af­ter­math of his former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser ad­mit­ting he lied to the FBI.

Michael Flynn on Fri­day pleaded guilty to mak­ing false state­ments about meet­ings with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador weeks be­fore Mr Trump be­came pres­i­dent.

The pres­i­dent’s re­marks yes­ter­day morn­ing were his first pub­lic re­ac­tion to the plea deal, in which Flynn is co-op­er­at­ing with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The pres­i­dent was at pains to stress there is “no col­lu­sion” be­tween his cam­paign and the Rus­sians.

Three times Mr Trump told re­porters it had been shown that there was “no col­lu­sion”.

Mr Trump spoke as he left the White House to head to New York for fundrais­ing events ex­pected to raise mil­lions of dol­lars.

Flynn, who vig­or­ously cam­paigned at Mr Trump’s side and then served as his first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, said mem­bers of the pres­i­dent’s in­ner cir­cle were in­ti­mately in­volved with – and at times di­rect­ing – his con­tacts.

The re­tired gen­eral’s plea to a sin­gle felony count of false state­ments made him the first of­fi­cial of Mr Trump’s White House to be charged so far in the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Mr Mueller.

And his ac­tion could be an omi­nous sign for a White House shad­owed for the past year by in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The move could turn Flynn into a po­ten­tially key gov­ern­ment co­op­er­a­tor as pros­e­cu­tors ex­am­ine whether Mr Trump’s cam­paign and Rus­sia worked to­gether to in­flu­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the pres­i­dent’s favour.

Fri­day’s de­vel­op­ments do not re­solve the para­mount ques­tion of pos­si­ble Trump-Rus­sia co­or­di­na­tion in the cam­paign but they do show that Flynn lied to the FBI about mul­ti­ple con­ver­sa­tions last De­cem­ber with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the US.

Court pa­pers make clear that se­nior of­fi­cials for Mr Trump’s tran­si­tion were fully aware of Flynn’s deal­ings with Rus­sian of­fi­cials in the weeks be­fore the in­au­gu­ra­tion.

The of­fi­cials were not named in court pa­pers but peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the case iden­ti­fied two of them to news agency AP as Jared Kush­ner, the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law, and former deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser KT McFar­land, now up for an am­bas­sador­ship.

That rev­e­la­tion moves the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion deeper into the White House. And, given the di­rect in­volve­ment of the tran­si­tion team in Flynn’s calls with Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak, the plea also raises ques­tions about the ac­cu­racy of re­peated as­ser­tions by the ad­min­is­tra­tion that Flynn had mis­led Mike Pence and other of­fi­cials when he de­nied hav­ing dis­cussed sanc­tions with the diplo­mat.

Flynn stood qui­etly dur­ing his plea hear­ing ex­cept to an­swer brief ques­tions from the judge.

He ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions in a writ­ten state­ment, though he said he had also been sub­jected to false ac­cu­sa­tions.

“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,” he said.

A former De­fence In­tel­li­gence Agency chief, Flynn was a con­sid­era- bly more vo­cal sur­ro­gate for Mr Trump dur­ing the cam­paign, known for lead­ing rally crowds in “lock her up” chants re­gard­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server.

Though pros­e­cu­tors also had in­ves­ti­gated Flynn for lob­by­ing work on be­half of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment, the fact he was per­mit­ted to plead guilty to just one count, and faces a guide­line range of zero to six months in prison, sug­gests pros­e­cu­tors see him as a valu­able tool in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion and are grant­ing a de­gree of le­niency in ex­change for co­op­er­a­tion.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb sought to dis­tance the plea from Mr Trump him­self, say­ing: “Noth­ing about the guilty plea or the charge im­pli­cates any­one other than Flynn.”

WIN MCNAMEE

Don­ald Trump’s former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn

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