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Top Democrat: Trump Lied About Russian Contacts

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The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, has asserted that former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn's plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller indicates that President Donald Trump lied about his team's contact with Russian officials. Flynn will reportedly testify that during the presidential transition, Trump directed him to initiate contact with the Russian government.

On Dec. 1, Mueller filed legal documents indicating that Flynn had pleaded guilty to perjury. The former national security adviser stated in the documents that he had lied to the FBI about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December 2016. Flynn reportedly pledged to fully cooperate with Mueller's investigation into whether Trump campaign associates had colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election.

"My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel's Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country," Flynn said in a statement, according to ABC News. "I accept full responsibility for my actions."

Schiff, the top Democrat on the House committee investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, stated during an interview that Flynn's guilty plea had far-reaching implications for the Trump administration.

"This is part of a broader pattern in which the administration officials as well as campaign officials have dissembled or outright lied about their contacts with Russians," Schiff told CNN. "[Flynn] told senior transition officials about this, those people all became part of that White House. So it's not going to be that easy for the White House to say, 'nothing to see here.'"

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Schiff added that he believed Flynn's guilty plea was evidence that Trump lied when he denied any knowledge of his campaign associates communicating with Russian officials.

"When [Trump] says 'we had no contact with the Russians,' that's a lie," Schiff said.

Mueller released the documents detailing Flynn's guilty plea. The former national security adviser said that he had spoken to Kislyak over the phone in December 2016 about a United Nations Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements on the West Bank, even though the Trump transition team had been told by the Obama administration not to interfere in foreign affairs until Trump assumed office, The New York Times reports.

Flynn stated that a senior member of the Trump transition team directed him to request Russia to oppose the U.N. resolution. When the Obama administration placed sanctions on the Russian government for its meddling during the 2016 election, Flynn called Kislyak to urge the Russia not to retaliate. Flynn disclosed in his plea deal that he had informed the Trump transition team about his conversation with the ambassador, according to The Washington Post.

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Schiff asserted in another interview that Flynn's new disclosures indicated that the Trump administration knew of contacts with the Russian government that they later denied.

"I don't remember any other administration officials acknowledging that they knew about Michael Flynn's contacts and the contents of those discussions," Schiff told the Los Angeles Times.

On Jan. 16, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to the FBI about his communications with Kislyak and that there was evidence he was compromised by Russia. Yates was fired six days later for refusing to uphold Trump's executive order on travel.

On Feb. 13, Flynn resigned from his position at the White House after reports emerged about his conversations with Kislyak.

Schiff concluded that if Flynn testified that Trump himself had directed him to contact Kislyak, then the president would be culpable.

"It would explain, I suppose, why he was so reluctant to fire Mike Flynn if in fact Mike Flynn was doing what he asked him to do," Schiff said. "But, it would also mean that Mike Flynn was fired for lying about something the president knew and condoned."

Sources: ABC NewsCNN/YouTubeLos Angeles TimesThe New York TimesThe Washington Post / Featured Image: Elizabeth Fraser/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: CNN/YouTube, Al Jazeera English/YouTube

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