Why Flynn’s guilty plea is bad news for Team Trump

Michael Flynn’s guilty plea Friday to a single count of making false statements to the FBI about conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, does not bode well for the Trump administration and for the president and his family personally

Flynn, who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser and earlier was involved in the Trump presidential campaign and presidential transition team, promised full cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The White House continues to maintain that Flynn does not have any information that could implicate or incriminate President Trump

Court documents show Flynn told investigators that a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team directed him to contact foreign governments, including Russia, about a United Nations vote.

There is now for the first time the hint of evidence that there was potentially collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and that this collusion may have been carried out at the highest level.

And Fox News reported: “While it is unclear who Flynn himself is prepared to name, Fox News has been told by a former senior intelligence officer with knowledge of Trump transition activities that then-President-Elect Trump directed Flynn during that period to contact the Russians – while also directing him and his team to contact 12 other countries.”

As a result, there is now for the first time the hint of evidence that there was potentially collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and that this collusion may have been carried out at the highest level.

To be sure, this is one side of the story. President Trump had repeatedly said there was no such collusion. So has the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Some have speculated that Kushner is the unnamed “senior member” of the transition team who directed Flynn to make foreign contacts.

But if there is anyone who can show that there potentially was collusion it is Flynn.

Indeed, the fact that Flynn has only been charged with one count is remarkable, given that all evidence suggests that he has apparently colluded with the Russians himself during the 2016 presidential campaign. Not to mention his history of concealing work that he did for the Turkish government and working on behalf of Russia while advising Trump’s campaign.

Just consider the laundry list of allegations made against the retired Army lieutenant general.

First, Flynn failed to disclose the more than $500,000 he received from a Turkish businessman and crony of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for lobbying and research work that his firm – Flynn Intel Group, Inc. – did to discredit an exiled cleric who Erdogan wants returned to Turkey from the U.S.

And Flynn wrote an op-ed on behalf of Turkey – headlined “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support” – while he was working for candidate Trump.

Even more disquieting, Flynn is under investigation for a meeting during which he allegedly discussed a plan for him and his son to receive $15 million in exchange for kidnapping the exiled cleric.

Lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Flynn’s Russian ties. He also failed to list payments from Russia-linked entities on the first of two federal financial disclosure forms he was required to fill out to become national security adviser. Nor did he list the speeches he was paid to deliver by Russian state-owned television network RT.

As the first former administration official who has been charged as part of Mueller’s Russia investigation, the charges against Flynn alone make it difficult to distance President Trump from Mueller’s probe.

And now that Flynn is cooperating with the FBI and is prepared to testify, he has effectively brought the special counsel’s investigation onto the White House front lawn.

Based on my own experience working on campaigns, it is very well within the realm of possibility that President Trump was aware – if not responsible for – Flynn’s communications with the Russians over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. But this possibility remains unproven, as far as we know from what has been made public.

Anyone who has worked on a presidential campaign knows that most important rule is that you always tell your principal what you are doing. So it is entirely plausible that Flynn’s communications could have been carried out at the direction of a senior member of the Trump campaign team, if not the candidate himself. We don’t know what Mueller and his team know, so whether this happened remains to be established in the public record

It is certainly questionable that Flynn stayed in touch with the Russians while he was on the campaign trail without candidate Trump knowing about it, as the White House maintains

Now that Flynn is expected to testify against the president, what he did or did not do with Donald Trump will now be the critical issue going forward.