New details from Mueller about Michael Flynn could implicate top Trump officials — and Jared Kushner is at the top of the list
- The special counsel Robert Mueller has disclosed new details about Michael Flynn's contacts with the former Russian ambassador.
- Flynn, the former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI about those conversations.
- There could be ramifications for other senior Trump campaign and transition team officials, including Jared Kushner.
The office of the special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday disclosed new details about the former national security adviser Michael Flynn's calls last December with the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey Kislyak, hours after Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements about those calls in an interview with the FBI earlier this year.
The statement of offense lays out the most precise timeline yet of Flynn's conversations with Kislyak, which federal prosecutors say were encouraged by top members of Trump's transition team.
Some reports have already pointed to Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, as the person who directed Flynn to contact the Russians about a UN Security Council vote.
On January 24, the FBI interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak. In that interview, according to prosecutors, Flynn "falsely stated" that he did not discuss the issue of US sanctions with Kislyak and that he did not recall Kislyak following up to tell him that Russia would moderate its response as a result of Flynn's request.
On December 28, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that issued new sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US in response to Moscow's interference in the 2016 election. That day, Kislyak contacted Flynn, the statement of offense says.
The next day, on December 29, Flynn called a senior member of then President-elect Donald Trump's transition team. The official "was with other members of the Presidential Transition Team at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, to discuss what, if anything, to communicate" to Kislyak "about the US sanctions," the document said.
Trump was at Mar-a-Lago on December 29. A pool report from December 29 indicates that Trump transition officials at Mar-a-Lago that day included Stephen Miller, K.T. McFarland, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus.
Kushner was a senior member of the transition team and had met with both Flynn and Kislyak earlier that month at Trump Tower. He is a focus of Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election and whether any Trump associates played a part.
It is unclear whether Kushner was at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, however. He and his wife, Ivanka Trump, flew to Hawaii for a vacation on December 22.
Flynn and the senior Trump transition official "discussed the US sanctions, including the potential impact of those sanctions on the incoming administration's foreign policy goals" during their call on December 29. They also discussed that members of the transition team "at Mar a Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation."
"Immediately" after that call, Flynn called Kislyak "and requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the US sanctions in a reciprocal manner," according to the document. Flynn then reported back to the Trump transition official about his call with Kislyak.
December 30 and beyond
"We will not create problems for US diplomats," Putin said. "We will not expel anybody."
Hours later, Trump tweeted: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!"
On December 31, Kislyak called Flynn "and informed him that Russia had chosen not to retaliate in response to Flynn's request," according to the statement of offense. Flynn again reported back to "senior members" of Trump's transition team about the call.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House counsel Don McGahn on January 27, three days after Flynn was interviewed by the FBI, that Flynn had not been forthcoming about his conversations with Kislyak.
The DOJ was particularly concerned about an interview Vice President Mike Pence had given to CBS during which he stated that Flynn had not discussed the issue of sanctions with Kislyak in their phone calls.
"We told them that the conduct Flynn had engaged in [speaking to Kislyak] was problematic in and of itself," Yates said in her testimony. "We said that the vice president was entitled to know that the information he was giving the American people was not true. And we told him we were concerned that the American people had been misled about what General Flynn had done, and that we weren't the only ones who knew about this."
McGahn then asked her why the DOJ cared if "one White House official lied to another," Yates said. He also wanted to know if the DOJ was pursuing a criminal case against Flynn, and expressed concern that firing Flynn could "interfere with the FBI taking action against" him, she said.
A source close to McGahn told The New York Times on Friday that Yates did not tell him, explicitly, that Flynn had committed a federal crime by lying to the FBI about his calls with Kislyak.
Flynn started talking to Kislyak as early as December 1
Kushner reportedly asked Kislyak during that meeting whether the transition team could set up a back-channel line of communication with Moscow, which would evade detection by the US intelligence community, to discuss issues related to terrorism and the Syrian civil war.
About three weeks later, on December 22, "a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood" on a resolution proposed by Egypt to the UN Security Council that would condemn Israel's practice of building settlements on disputed lands.
That senior transition official was Kushner, according to Bloomberg View.
That day, Flynn called Kislyak to tell him about the incoming Trump administration's opposition to the proposed resolution "and requested that Russia vote against or delay" it. Kislyak told Flynn on December 23 that Russia "would not vote against the resolution" if it came to a vote at the UN.
Kushner, a top transition official who is now a senior White House adviser, also lobbied foreign governments — particularly the United Kingdom — to help scuttle the UN resolution, according to Foreign Policy. But he was rebuffed, and the resolution passed.
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