The Washington Post reports that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned after 24 days in office and now sits at the center of one of the biggest American political scandals in decades, may have committed a felony by lying to the FBI.
Flynn was in contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak weeks before Trump’s inauguration and repeatedly denied—to both the media and White House officials—discussing sanctions that President Obama imposed against Russia as punishment for interfering with the election. However, US intelligence agencies intercepted the December call and found that Flynn discussed the sanctions and suggested that Trump’s administration would ease them. (Intelligence agencies also learned that several other Trump officials and aides had repeated contact with Russian leadership throughout the 2016 campaign). At the end of January, two days after FBI agents interviewed Flynn, then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates (who Trump fired days later for refusing to implement the immigration ban) alerted the White House of the contents of Flynn’s call and warned that he was vulnerable to blackmail by the Kremlin. Flynn was forced to resign on Monday night after the Washington Post broke the news that he had misled White House officials.
Flynn may have been in violation of the obscure Logan Act, which bars unauthorized citizens from negotiating disputes with foreign governments, but it would have been nearly impossible to convict him. It’s far easier to prosecute him for lying to the FBI, but that decision lies with the Department of Justice. However, CNN reports that the FBI “is not expected” to file charges against Flynn, relaying a slightly different version of events than the Post:
Flynn initially told investigators sanctions were not discussed. But FBI agents challenged him, asking if he was certain that was his answer. He said he didn’t remember.
The FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn’t remember all of what he talked about, they don’t believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say.
The stunning report comes hours after Donald Trump gave a messy press conference in which he defended Flynn. “What he did wasn’t wrong,” Trump said. Instead, Trump blamed the intelligence community for recording the call, and the media for reporting on Flynn’s call. “What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That’s the real problem.”
The greatest irony, however, lies in the prophetic words of Flynn himself. On the campaign trail he led a “Lock her up!” chant against Hillary Clinton, saying, “If I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth of what [Hillary Clinton] did, I would be in jail today.”
Meanwhile, the national security advisor post remains open. The man Trump tapped to be Flynn’s replacement, ex-Navy Seal Robert Harward, definitely does not want the job.