What Are the Political Ramifications of Michael Flynn's Guilty Plea?

| DEC 1, 2017 | 9:36 PM
Former Trump Adviser Michael Flynn Charged With Making False Statement To FBI

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It's been a busy day for Robert Mueller.

On Friday morning, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to the president, pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about back-channel communications with the Russian ambassador.

Soon after, ABC news reported that Flynn, cooperating with Mueller's special investigators, was “prepared to testify against President Trump, against members of the Trump family, and others in the White House.”

Experts agree the immediate political implications of this development are a bit uncertain.

Gary Nordlinger, political strategist and Professional in Residence at the George Washington University School of Political Management, proposed that most of the power lies within the details of Flynn's plea deal.

“If he's agreed to testify against other members of the Trump administration, then it's very significant,” Nordlinger postured to IJR. “If he's just cut a deal about himself, then it's just an issue about Michael Flynn.”

When questioned if President Donald Trump — who previously called investigations into Flynn's Russia ties “a witch hunt ... of historic proportion” — should be nervous, Nordlinger added, “Only Donald Trump knows what he knew and when did he know it. If he knew next to nothing, he wouldn't need to be nervous.”

John Malcolm, vice president of the Institute for Constitutional Government, agreed that a guilty plea alone was not enough to put pressure on the sitting administration.

“It's entirely possible that Flynn had undisclosed dealing with Turkish and Russian governments," Malcolm said. "And it's entirely feasible that [Flynn] has no further dirt than that.”

Malcolm supposed that Flynn's “dirty dealings” were in self-interest, rather than orders from the Trump administration, though reports from Bloomberg tie Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and de-facto “peace in the Middle East” operative, to Flynn's dealings in the Far East.

According to reports, Kushner allegedly ushered Flynn to urge Russia's ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, “to delay [...] or defeat” a United Nationals Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

Kushner and the White House have yet to respond.

Aftershocks from this admission will likely be felt during the 2018 midterm election, Elaine Kamarck, Harvard lecturer and Brookings Senior Fellow in the Governance Studies, told IJR.

Flynn's admission “can not help the president's approval ratings, it can not help him in the Senate races and it can not help him in the house races,” Kamarck added, pointing to the razor-thin, three-seat margin of control in the Senate.

President Trump “could face the prospect of a Democratic Senate or at least a Democratic House” by the end of his first term, Kamarck said.

Kamarck added that Flynn's guilty plea may be the “unraveling of a thread that leads to people close to” the president or individuals within his cabinet, though the likelihood of that remains to be predicted.

Flynn's admission of guilt marks the fourth individual in Trump's orbit outed by Mueller's special investigations team. President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his business partner, Rick Gates, and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos have all cooperated with Mueller regarding possible Russian election meddling.