Former national security adviser Michael Flynn spoke with a "senior official" in President Trump's transition team at the Mar-a-Lago resort to discuss what he should communicate to the Russian ambassador in a highly-scrutinized series of phone calls in December of 2016, according to federal prosecutors.
Flynn and the senior officials discussed both the recently implemented U.S. sanctions on Russia as well as the fact that they did not want Russia to escalate friction between the two nations, lawyers on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's team told a federal judge Friday.
After the discussion, Flynn telephoned the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Afterwards, he called the senior transition official and reported the sanctions discussion, prosecutors said.
Kislyak later followed up with Flynn and affirmed that Russia would moderate its response to the sanctions, put in place by then-President Obama. Flynn communicated that exchange to other transition officials, prosecutors said.
Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to one count of providing false statements to federal investigators, thereby admitting to the charges made by Mueller's prosecutors.
According to court documents filed by Mueller, Flynn lied when he told investigators that he did not ask Kislyak to "refrain from escalating the situation" in response to sanctions that Obama had levied on Russia.
Flynn also lied, the counsel said, when Flynn said he did not ask the ambassador to either delay or defeat a United Nations Security Council vote.
Prosecutors told Judge Rudolph Contreras that Flynn was told by the senior member of the Trump transition team to reach out to other countries to influence the U.N. vote, in an effort to delay or defeat the resolution.
Flynn's misrepresentation of his conversations with Kislyak — which took place in December, before Trump took office — were the justification for his ouster from the White House after just 24 days as national security adviser.
The government's testimony on Friday raises new questions about who in Trump's orbit knew about the nature of Flynn's conversations — and how they learned of it.
Reporting based on leaks of U.S. surveillance in February held that Flynn had misled Vice President Pence about the contents the phone call, saying that sanctions were not mentioned — an account Pence then repeated to the American people.
At the time, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn created a "compromise situation" and could have been "blackmailed."
“We weren’t the only ones that knew all of this,” Yates testified earlier this year, referring to the revelation that Flynn misled Pence about the true content of a December call with Kislyak. “The Russians also knew about what Gen. Flynn had done. The Russians also knew that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”
Flynn was interviewed by the FBI in its investigation into Russian interference in the election in January, when Mueller's office now says he made false statements about the phone calls with Kislyak.
The White House fired him 18 days after Yates's warning.