Ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about meetings with Russia’s ambassador weeks before Donald Trump became president.
The charges were brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as part of his inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
Mr Flynn is the most senior member of the administration to be indicted.
He said he was co-operating with Mr Mueller’s inquiry.
Appearing in a federal court in Washington DC on Friday, he admitted to one count of knowingly making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements”.
According to an AFP reporter, Mr Flynn was asked by Judge Rudolph Contreras if he wished to plead guilty and responded with the words “Yes, sir”. The judge continued: “I accept your guilty plea. There will be no trial and there will be probably no appeal.”
A short time later he issued a statement in which he said “I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right”.
Just over a week ago, US media said his legal team had told the president’s lawyers they could no longer discuss the case, prompting suggestions that he had begun co-operating with prosecutors.
In his statement, Mr Flynn made clear he was “working to set things right” and stressed: “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”.
As the court developments unfolded, the White House issued a statement saying that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn”.
In October, Mr Trump’s former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and business associate Rick Gates were accused of conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine. It also emerged that another ex-aide, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents.
Michael Flynn was forced to resign in February, a month after he was questioned by the FBI for misleading the White House about meeting then Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition period before Mr Trump took office.
According to the charge sheet, Michael Flynn is accused of:
By Anthony Zurcher, BBC News North America reporter
Michael Flynn lost his prized national security adviser post because of December 2016 conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Now he’s facing criminal charges.
That’s bad news for Mr Flynn, but it could be even worse news for Donald Trump, who reportedly directly lobbied former FBI Director James Comey to back off the Flynn investigation before firing the top law man.
There’s no telling where the investigation could next lead. Was Mr Flynn acting independently, or did he tell anyone else in the Trump transition team about his conversations with Sergei Kislyak? What about his 2016 work for individuals connected to the Turkish government, for which he had to register after-the-fact as a foreign lobbying agent?
Perhaps most concerning for the Trump White House is that the latest move by Mr Mueller’s team is not directly connected to the indictment of former campaign chair Paul Manafort or the guilty plea of former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying about his own contacts with the Russian government.
The independent counsel investigation is casting a very wide net, and they just landed their biggest fish yet.
Mr Flynn lost his role as national security adviser after only 23 days in the post, when it emerged he had misled Vice President Mike Pence over his discussions with the then Russian ambassador over lifting US sanctions on Russia.
But he has since become embroiled in further allegations. US media reported last month that he and his son had been offered $ 15m (£11.5m) by Turkey to help forcibly remove a Muslim cleric from the US and deliver him to Turkey. His lawyer condemned the reports as “outrageous”.
A retired three-star lieutenant-general in the US Army, he lost his job in the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2014 under President Barack Obama. He later aligned himself with the Trump campaign.
During the Republican party convention in the summer of 2016, he led chants of “lock her up”, aimed at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. As he was escorted from court by FBI agents on Friday, a handful of protesters shouted “criminal” and “lock him up”.
Original post: BBC News – Worldhappy wheels