The White House tried to put distance between President Donald Trump and Michael Flynn, a former member of his inner circle who pleaded guilty Friday to a charge in the Justice Department’s Russia probe.
In a statement released after Trump’s first national security adviser entered his plea in an Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom, White House legal counsel Ty Cobb tried to paint Flynn has a short-timer in the president’s roster of aides and confidants — both on the campaign trail and after he joined Trump in the West Wing.
Cobb noted that Flynn was national security adviser for “25 days during the Trump administration,” and added that he is a “former Obama administration official.” (Barack Obama’s administration fired Flynn from his post as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.)
Cobb also attempted to shield the president and his senior staff from any connection to the charges against the retired three-star Army general.
“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year,” Cobb said. “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”
“The conclusion of this phase of the special counsel’s work demonstrates again that the special counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion,” Cobb added.
White House officials for weeks have said Mueller is wrapping up his probe, though they never fully explain the basis of those statements.
A U.S. government document released by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller said Flynn has been indicted for making “materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to federal officials. He is due in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, for a plea agreement hearing at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Flynn is being charged with misleading federal officials about several conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn is the fourth former Trump campaign or White House official to be indicted by Mueller, and the first since October. He is the closest individual to Trump to be indicted, having once been among his most senior and trusted aides.
Senior White House officials have tried to distance the president from the three other individuals: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his top associate, Rick Gates, who were hit with a dozen charges stemming from their private business practices from 2006 to 2016. The same is true for former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’s guilty plea on lying to federal officials about contacts he had with well-connected Russians was revealed.
That Flynn was charged with only one count suggests he is cooperating with Mueller and providing information about the Trump campaign and White House operations.