Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI is a "significant escalation" of Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump administration, the Washington Post reports. Flynn, as President Trump's former national security advisor, is the first person charged "who not only actually served in the White House, but someone for whom Trump clearly maintained a huge affinity even after being forced to fire him." The charge against Flynn brings the investigation much closer to the president himself than previous charges because Flynn is "a man who was clearly close to Trump" and who "the notoriously fickle Trump has for some reason remained loyal" to. Here's what else you need to know about Flynn's guilty plea:
- Trump's laywer, Ty Cobb, argues Flynn wasn't actually that close to the president, calling him a "former Obama administration official" in a statement, USA Today reports. The statement goes on to downplay the connection between Flynn's guilty plea and the White House.
- But the AP chronicles the rapid political rise inside the administration of the man it calls "Donald Trump's favorite general."
- David French at the National Review argues it's very likely there are bigger things to come as Flynn is pleading guilty to lying about actions that likely weren't illegal. French says either "Flynn is the victim of a monstrous injustice" or "we're still only seeing the tip of the Mueller investigation iceberg."
- Chris Cillizza at CNN agrees, as Flynn hasn't been charged with anything involving his dealings with Turkey. That means he's likely cooperating to help Mueller bring down someone even higher up—possibly Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., or the president himself.
- One sign that it could be Kushner: Bloomberg reports sources say Kushner was the one who instructed Flynn to contact Russia, which could be enough to get Trump's son-in-law convicted under a 218-year-old law even if collusion isn't proven.
- One sign that Mueller's target is Trump himself: ABC News reports Flynn, feeling spurned by the president, has promised Mueller "full cooperation" and indicated he's ready to testify that Trump is the one who directed him to contact Russia.
- Upon ABC's report that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller, the stock market dove, CNBC reports. The Dow Jones dropped more than 350 points before rebounding slightly.
- Unlike the stock market, former FBI director James Comey appeared to be taking the news in stride, posting a photo of Potomac River waterfalls to Instagram with the caption "'But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream' Amos 5:24" after the Flynn news broke.
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