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With Flynn plea deal, Robert Mueller's Russia probe reaches the White House

The former national security adviser will plead guilty to lying to the FBI.
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The Essentials

– Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump who resigned over talks with Russia, has been charged with lying to the FBI, NBC News says.

– He reportedly reached a plea deal with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

– He will plead guilty to misleading the FBI in January about back channel conversations he had with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office. He resigned from his White House role in February.

The Big Picture

Flynn's plea deal is significant because for the first time in Mueller's probe, charges have been brought against someone who was once part of the White House staff.

What's even more foreboding for others in the White House is that several media reports suggest the plea deal indicates Flynn is expected to cooperate with Mueller's investigators.

The New York Times reported last week that Flynn's attorneys had cut ties with the legal team provided by President Donald Trump, saying they could no longer discuss the Mueller probe with them.

It could also have implications for the president himself, with a memo from former FBI director James Comey claiming Trump had asked him to drop the investigation into Flynn. 

Flynn is the fourth associate of the Trump campaign to be charged in Mueller's probe, the others being former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, and former adviser George Papadopoulos.

According to the charge (published here by the Washington Post), Flynn's infraction relates to an incident on Dec. 29, 2016, the day the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and issued new sanctions against Russia.

Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador, and is said to have asked Russia to hold off on "escalating the situation" in response to the situation, with Trump just weeks away from becoming president, the Washington Post says.

He denied asking this when quizzed by the FBI on Jan. 24, four days after Trump took office, leading to the charges announced on Friday. 

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