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Cooperating with Mueller on Russia probe, former Trump aide Michael Flynn takes plea deal

Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts while he was a member of the Trump campaign, saying that an unidentified senior official directed his contacts. The former national security advisor is the first Trump White House aide to face charges -- and the senior-most to cooperate -- in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    He was candidate Trump's, and then President Trump's, main adviser on national security and foreign policy. But, today, Michael Flynn entered a guilty plea in the special counsel's investigation into Russia, the Trump campaign and the 2016 election.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

  • William Brangham:

    Michael Flynn walked into federal court in Washington this morning, and pled guilty to a single count of making false statements to the FBI.

    He's now the senior-most member of the Trump administration to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the election. Prosecutors say Flynn lied when he denied he and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia during and after the 2016 campaign.

    According to court documents, Flynn now says an unidentified senior official in the Trump transition team directed his contacts with the Russians. In a statement, Flynn said his guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel are — quote — "in the best interests of my family and of our country."

    And he said, "I accept full responsibility for my actions.'

  • Michael Flynn:

    You guys are good. Yes, that's right, lock her up.

  • William Brangham:

    The retired lieutenant general was an ardent booster of candidate Trump.

  • Michael Flynn:

    If I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.

  • William Brangham:

    Sometimes, Flynn lead chants against Hillary Clinton, and defended Trump's America-first approach.

  • Michael Flynn:

    To tell you that the destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president.

  • William Brangham:

    Then, he was tapped to be national security adviser, but, in February, the president fired him. The White House said he'd misled officials about his discussions with Kislyak.

  • President Donald Trump:

    General Flynn is a wonderful man.

  • William Brangham:

    Still, President Trump continued to defend Flynn.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it's really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.

  • William Brangham:

    Today, just after the guilty plea, the White House canceled a photo-op with President Trump and the Libyan prime minister, and the president ignored shouted questions.

    Instead, in a statement, White House attorney Ty Cobb said, "The false statement involved mirror the false statements to White House officials, which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn."

    Cobb added that Flynn's plea "clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion to the Russia probe."

    Flynn has also been accused of attempting to cover up lobbying work he did for the Turkish government. He was reportedly paid at least $600,000 for that work, just before he was tapped as national security adviser.

    He's one of four former Trump advisers charged thus far in the Mueller investigation. The others are former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and former transition team member George Papadopoulos. Flynn's sentencing is expected in a few months.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will explore the Flynn plea deal, and how it affects the White House, after the news summary.

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