Damning detail exposes Trump to Mueller
A FORMER senior member of Donald Trump's team has pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation over his dealings with the Russian government.
Michael Flynn, the President's former national security adviser, became the first Trump White House official to face criminal charges overnight after he admitted to misrepresenting his contacts with Russia.
Mr Flynn, 58, has also agreed to co-operate with the Robert Mueller's investigation, which is looking into whether the Trump campaign helped Russia to sway last year's election in Mr Trump's favour.
While the President has dismissed claims that he or his team colluded with Russia as a "hoax", one detail in Mr Flynn's six-page "statement of offence" appears to challenge that.
The court document, signed by Mr Flynn, make clear that "senior members" of the Trump team knew about his questionable contacts with Russian officials. US media is reporting that the President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the "very senior member" of the Trump team mentioned in the document who ordered Mr Flynn to reach out to Russia over a UN vote.
Last December, in the dying days of Barack Obama's presidency, the former president slapped Russia with sanctions for interfering in the election.
On December 28, Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak called Mr Flynn to discuss the sanctions.
The next day, Mr Flynn called an unnamed official in Mr Trump's transition team at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to discuss how to respond to the ambassador.
"On that call, Flynn and the PTT (Presidential Transition Team) official discussed the US sanctions, including the potential impact of those sanctions on the incoming administration's foreign policy goals," the statement reads.
"After his phone call with the PTT official, Flynn called the Russian ambassador and requested that Russia not escalate the situation."
On New Year's Eve, Mr Kislyak called him back to tell him that the Russian government had chosen not to retaliate because Mr Flynn had asked it not to.
Mr Flynn then informed "senior members" of the Trump team about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
When the FBI asked Mr Flynn about these conversations in January, he lied about them.
The statement also revealed that a "very senior member of the Trump Transition Team" told Mr Flynn to contact Russia to persuade it to defeat a United Nations Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements.
Mr Flynn also lied about these conversations to the FBI.
Both CNN and Bloomberg are reporting that the "very senior member" is White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka.
Mr Flynn said in a statement: "My guilty plea and agreement to co-operate with the Special Counsel's Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country."
It is not clear why Mr Flynn lied about these interactions with the Russian government.
He resigned in February after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Mr Kislyak. He spent only 25 days in the White House.
Mr Trump is yet to comment the news, but he tweeted in March that Mr Flynn should "ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt".
White House lawyer Ty Cobb said on Friday: "Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr Flynn."
The President has long argued that the Russia probe is an attempt to discredit his election win and excuse the Democrats' loss.
Friday's developments have overshadowed what could have been a good day for Mr Trump, after Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell declared "we have the votes" to pass the party's landmark tax cuts.
Mr Trump cancelled a media event with the Libyan Prime Minister on Friday after Mr Flynn's guilty plea.
Former FBI director James Comey said earlier this year that Mr Trump asked him in a private meeting to drop the investigation into Mr Flynn.
Mr Comey tweeted a cryptic Bible quote on Friday after the news broke.