On Saturday, President Trump, expressed his first response to the guilty plea by General Flynn. General Flynn, the former National Security Advisor to President Trump, is the first individual prosecuted by the special prosecutor who held a position in the Trump administration. President Trump said, “What has been shown is no collusion…… There’s been absolutely no collusion so we’re very happy.” As usual, President Trump spoke a half-truth which hides the reality.
General Flynn pleaded guilty to lying, while he was National Security Advisor, to the F.B.I. about the contacts he had, during the Trump Campaign, with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In his guilty plea, he indicated he had acted with the knowledge or direction of senior members of Trump’s campaign. While President Trump may be happy that this guilty plea did not directly relate to collusion; it does indicate that Trump claims of “Fake News” were just wrong, and more importantly it suggests Trump may have been trying to obstruct justice when he said to Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
The significance of Flynn’s guilty plea is that it was only available to Flynn, if he provided more information about others higher up in Trump’s circle. .It’s hard to imagine who was higher up than Flynn, besides President Trump, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Vice President Pence. While, Trump is correct that there is no proof of collusion in this guilty plea; there is the indication that the special prosecutor believes Flynn will give him information about wrongful acts by the most senior members of Trump’s circle and possibly the President.
The issue is whether Trump or members of his inner circle conspired with Russians remains unclear. The conversations that Flynn had with the Russians , with the knowledge or direction of higher ups in the campaign, appear to have revolved around potentially removing sanctions, a vote of the UN security council , and improving relations with Russia. Trump was not yet President and Flynn was not yet National Security Advisor,; hence those conversation would be a violation of the Logan Act. The Logan Act makes it a felony for a private citizen to negotiate with a foreign adversarial power that would undermine an existing government position. Clearly, these conversations were a violation. However, no citizen has ever been convicted of breaking this law in its 200 year history. So even if Trump was aware and involved in these conversations, would the Congress consider that Trump should be impeached? It simply is far from certain.
Remarkably Trump this afternoon has tweeted that he fired Flynn because he lied to the FBI. This indicates that Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI and he wanted to protect him when he asked for Comey’s help. It is very possible that this is the crime of obstruction of justice. But again, it is not self evident that Congress would consider this a “high crime and misdemeanor” worthy of impeachment.
The only acts that Congress will definitely impeach President Trump for are those in which there is evidence that his campaign coordinated with wikileaks or Russian hackers in the release of emails or targeting of information to voters during the campaign ,and he knew or should have known about it ;or if there is some other direct quip pro quo with Russia. General Flynn’s plea deal is unlikely to touch those actions. He was a policy person more then a campaign planner. Clearly, Flynn’s guilty plea and willingness to cooperate shows that the President has a problem with truth but doesn’t necessarily mean it will lead to his impeachment.