Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Trump, is scheduled for a plea hearing at 10:30 a.m. ET on Friday. The announcement indicates that Flynn will plead guilty to lying to the FBI. The plea bargain comes as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mueller's probe into Russia's role in the 2016 election has been under way since May. In late October, the indictment of three former Trump campaign officials was made public — Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. As former campaign chairman, Manafort was widely viewed as the most potentially problematic for Trump himself.
But David A. Graham has argued at The Atlantic that an indictment of Flynn would be viewed by the White House as much more threatening. Flynn not only worked on Trump's campaign, but followed the president into the West Wing as his appointed national security adviser. That proximity could compel Mueller to interview a slew of White House officials much closer to the president himself.
Flynn has long been a controversial figure, at times for reasons unrelated to foreign entanglements. During his speech at the Republican National Convention, he led the audience in a chant of "Lock her up!" The phrase had become a rally favorite of Trump supporters, referencing their desire to see Hillary Clinton behind bars.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Flynn is being investigated by Mueller in part for his role in an elaborate plot to extradite a Turkish cleric living in the United States. Reportedly, Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were attempting to "forcibly remove" Fethullah Gulen for a payout of $15 million. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, called the allegations in the WSJ report "outrageous and prejudicial."
Flynn was already known to be under investigation for lobbying work he had done on behalf of the Turkish government, work which he failed to disclose on government records. He is also under military and congressional investigations into the financial ties linking him to both Turkey and Russia, and whether or not those ties impacted his role as national security adviser.
The questions surrounding Flynn don't stop there. His resignation came after reports revealed Flynn had lied about speaking of lifting sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And though he served as national security adviser for less than a month — making his tenure in that position the briefest on record — Flynn appears to have promoted the business interests of IP3, a company he had previously worked for as an adivser, before he left the West Wing.
The latest news about Flynn comes from ABC's Brian Ross, who on Friday morning quoted a source saying Flynn was prepared to testify against Trump and members of Trump's administration and family, including that the president instructed him specifically to "make contact" with the Russians during the campaign.
Notably, what exactly that testimony would entail is not yet known. But for now, it seems those who predicted Flynn must have had much to offer Mueller in exchange for a reduced sentence were correct. As Max de Haldevang puts it at Quartz, "If Flynn is only being prosecuted for lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts despite the questions about his Turkish connections, that could suggest whatever he’s offering is very big indeed."
There was plenty of speculation on Twitter and elsewhere as to what Flynn's relatively light plea bargain meant for other members of Trump's administration. And while curiosity as to what Flynn has told Mueller is running high, those who know the special counsel cautioned that patience will be required. According to at least one former colleague, Norm Eisen, Mueller will not "show all of his cards" any time soon.
Though it may take some time before the public knows what Flynn has told Mueller, the Flynn plea deal is still a major development in the unfolding and ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.