Well, well, well.
We now have a better idea why President Trump went to such great lengths to shield Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, from the prying eyes of the F.B.I. and various congressional committees over the past year. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, it didn’t work out as he had planned.
On Friday morning, Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the F.B.I. about his communications with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during the transition period in December 2016. He told the lies on Jan. 24 of this year, after Mr. Trump had been inaugurated and Mr. Flynn was sitting in his West Wing office.
It’s hard to find a precedent for how quickly Mr. Trump’s inner circle has become consumed by scandal. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan made it into their second terms before the indictments of their inner circle started rolling in. In contrast, consider what’s happened in the last five weeks alone: The president of the United States’ former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, and an associate have been arrested and charged with multiple federal crimes, including money laundering and tax fraud; one of Mr. Trump’s former foreign policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with Russians; and now his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to the same offense, admitting that he committed federal crimes from inside the White House.
Should we say “lock him up” yet?
Not so fast. Mr. Flynn’s plea is part of a larger cooperation deal he’s struck with the special counsel, Robert Mueller III, who is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials who tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Mueller, for his part, is holding off on bringing even more serious charges against Mr. Flynn — remember the kidnapping plot? — despite apparently having more than enough evidence to indict him. He’s also recommending between zero and six months’ jail time for Mr. Flynn, a small fraction of the five-year maximum sentence he could face, as long as he cooperates.
In a statement released after his guilty plea, Mr. Flynn said that cooperating with the investigation is “a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country.”
It is not in the best interests of Donald Trump, who should be very, very concerned. The president has repeatedly denied that he or his campaign had any involvement with Russia, and he has mocked the investigation as a “witch hunt.” But Mr. Mueller has no reason to go easy on Mr. Flynn unless Mr. Flynn has valuable information to share.