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Michael Flynn Expected To Plead Guilty To Charge He Made False Statements To FBI


Big news out of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to plead guilty today to lying to the FBI. This morning, television cameras captured him walking into the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. Joining us now in our studio is NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Tell us exactly what Michael Flynn is being charged with.

JOHNSON: He's being charged with a single count of making false statements to the FBI. This took place, according to court documents, in an interview Mike Flynn had with the FBI on January 24 of this year, a time when he was actually working in the White House as President Donald Trump's national security adviser.

MARTIN: So this was not during the transition. He was in the administration.

JOHNSON: He was in the administration at the time. But he's accused of lying about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador, then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, during the transition first with regard to sanctions against Russia and second with regard to the timing of a U.N. Security Council vote that had to do with Israeli settlements.

MARTIN: So lying to the FBI is a serious charge. But it's substantively very different than cooperating with the Russian government to sway a presidential election, which is the question that's at the center of the Mueller investigation. So how do you make sense of this?

JOHNSON: We've known for months now that Mike Flynn has been under investigation by the FBI and the special counsel for any number of allegations, including failing to register as a foreign agent and some concerns about his business interests. This expected guilty plea today to a single false statements charge signifies that Mike Flynn may have delivered something to the special counsel that is very valuable, that he may be cooperating and helping Special Counsel Robert Mueller build on his investigation into other people involved in the Trump campaign and elsewhere.

MARTIN: Because we know that weeks ago, Mike Flynn's lawyers - legal team - stopped cooperating with President Trump's lawyers. That was important. It was a signifier.

JOHNSON: It was important. In fact, it signaled to other lawyers and possible subjects of the investigation that Mike Flynn's interests had diverged from theirs and that he was likely trying to engineer a deal in which he and possibly his son and his business associate would face little or no prison time in exchange for helping the investigation move ahead. What we're waiting for now is what Mike Flynn may have delivered in exchange for what looks like a very lenient plea deal in the works.

MARTIN: So what happens now? What next steps are to unfold?

JOHNSON: Flynn's at court now. He's being questioned by Judge Rudy Contreras about his ability to enter into this agreement. Later in the day some time, we're going to find out more information about what he may have told special counsel Mueller in court documents called a statement of facts. That will be a roadmap moving forward and some clues as to where they are going.

MARTIN: All right. Thanks so much, Carrie. Carrie Johnson, NPR's justice correspondent. Again, news this morning - former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn expected to plead guilty to one charge of lying to the FBI. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.