L’Affaire Russe has claimed its third victim as former National Security Adviser and retired Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn was charged with making false statements to the FBI in an interview given on 24 January 2017 by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the growing scandal.
Heckled by protesters ironically chanting ‘lock him up’ as he left a District Court in Washington DC, Flynn signed a plea agreement with the special counsel’s office to avoid further charges and to testify that the President directed him to reach out to the Russian government about counter-ISIL efforts before assuming office last year.
According to the agreement, the charge levelled against Flynn carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. Section three of the plea stated that Flynn would not be prosecuted for conduct in the statement of the offence, however the statement declined to mention numerous well-sourced allegations against Flynn including plots to kidnap a prominent enemy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fethullah Gülen. Experts suggest that this leaves open the possibility of further charges against Flynn if he fails to satisfactorily cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation.
As if this was not damaging enough for the President, a report by CNN suggested that the ‘very senior’ transition official mentioned in Department of Justice filings was President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Flynn alleges that the transition member directed him to engage with members of the UN Security Council prior to assuming office in order to ‘influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat’ of Resolution 2334, a resolution which criticised Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
The President’s personal attorney, Ty Cobb, published a statement in Comic Sans in an attempt to distance the administration from Flynn by suggesting that he was also an ‘Obama administration official’ (he served as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, however this has little to do with the charges brought against him) and that the allegations made by the special counsel were why he was fired less than a month in office. This is unlikely to persuade many as allegations of impropriety by the President mount.
Cobb thought that L’Affaire Russe would have subsided by Christmas, but it is clear that Mueller’s team is just getting started. The fact that Flynn could have been charged with much more serious crimes and was able to sign a deal with Mueller indicates that there are much larger fish to fry. But how much bigger can you get than the former National Security Adviser without involving the President and/or his family?