Kathryn Cross | Wellesley College
It all began in Dec. 2016, when the Obama administration stated that they may not veto United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which concerned Israel and Palestine’s tensions. Shortly thereafter, former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn--who was serving as a Trump campaign adviser at the time--spoke to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak regarding the resolution. A Dec. 1, 2017 statement of offense later reported that a senior official is the one who directed Flynn to engage in the call.
This was where the Trump administration began to engage in suspicious activity--activity that could eventually lead to Trump’s impeachment.
Allegedly, Flynn asked “the Russian ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council Resolution,” according to a Nov. 30, 2017 United States of America vs. Michael T. Flynn information document.
“The Russian Ambassador subsequently never described to Flynn Russia’s response to his request,” the same document describes.
The United States eventually abstained on the resolution, but on Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration places a variety of sanctions on Russian state agencies and individuals after discovering “significant malicious cyber-enabled activities” surrounding the 2016 presidential election, according to the Obama administration’s Dec. 29 national notice on the issue. Sanctions included asking 35 Russian diplomats to leave the United States.
Despite clear condemnation of Russian interference in any election proceedings, Flynn consequently spoke with Kislyak again, suggesting that Trump would end these sanctions if he were to be elected. He additionally requested that Russia “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day,” according to the Nov. 30, 2017 information document. United States intelligence agencies monitored these calls at this time.
Flynn then relayed the information of this call to the Trump administration. On Dec. 30, 2016, President Vladimir Putin made a public statement that he will not be retaliating against the United States for the sanctions.
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!” Trump said in a Dec. 30 Tweet in response. On Dec. 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him that Putin made this move because of Flynn, according to a statement of offense.
On Jan. 13, 2017, incoming Trump administration Press Secretary Sean Spicer denies that the sanctions were discussed--a statement that is now invalidated because on Dec. 1, 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to a single felony count of making false statements, a United States federal crime. These false statements that he initially made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation involved a denial of a discussion of sanctions.
Although it is possible that Spicer said what he believed to be true, his Jan. 13 statement is undoubtedly indicative of the corruption that goes on amongst the Trump administration. And, if that is not enough of an indication, Vice President Mike Pence appeared on CBS on Jan. 15 and made a statement additionally denying that the conversation discussed sanctions.
“What I can confirm, having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing to do with those sanctions,” Pence said.
Five days after this statement was made, Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States.
On Jan. 24, the Federal Bureau of Investigation inquired Flynn about his conversation with Kislyak up until that point.
Nonetheless, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates made a congressional testimony on May 8 describing the fact that sanctions were indeed discussed, according to United States intelligence. On Jan. 30, Trump fired Yates, allegedly over a disagreement surrounding Trump’s travel ban.
On Feb. 9, “The Washington Post” reported that Flynn did discuss the sanctions in his calls. A Pence aide immediately told “The Washington Post” that Pence was unaware of this information. However, Trump did know for two weeks prior to Feb. 9.
A series of miscommunications and false information transpired after that, including President Trump asking former FBI director James Comey to “let this go,” according to Comey’s June 8 congressional testimony. In any case, the United States charged Flynn on Nov. 30, describing that he expressed false information to the FBI. On Dec. 1, however, as previously mentioned, he pleaded guilty to these charges.
According to Politico, this most likely means that special counsel Robert Mueller will most likely pursue charging the Trump officials that Flynn consistently reported back to following his Kislyak conversations.
Already, many people have been charged or have resigned in connection to the Trump-Russia scandal. For instance, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his own conversations with Russian officials. Although he was deemed a low-tier volunteer by the Trump campaign, there is a clear trajectory of officials that are involved and plead guilty to the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia.
Additionally, if--in the process--Mueller uncovers evidence that Trump was indeed aware of the sanctions discussions and he lied to the FBI about it, he could be charged with obstruction of justice--the same charge that former President Bill Clinton faced prior to his impeachment.
Undoubtedly, Flynn’s guilty plea is not good for the Trump administration. A lack of transparency and alleged criminal activity has placed the Trump administration in a bad place, and it could eventually lead to Trump’s impeachment.