President Donald Trump’s ex-national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI in January.
Mr Flynn was forced to resign the following month after misleading the White House about meeting the Russian ambassador before Mr Trump took office.
The charges were brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as part of his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
Mr Flynn arrived at court on Friday.
He admitted to one count of knowingly making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements”.
According to an AFP reporter, Mr Flynn was asked by Judge Rudolph Contreras if he wished to plead guilty and responded with the words “Yes, sir”. The judge continued: “I accept your guilty plea. There will be no trial and there will be probably no appeal.”
A short time later he issued a statement in which he said “I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right”.
The former aide is the most senior member of the Trump administration so far to have been indicted by the Mueller investigation.
In October, Mr Trump’s former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was accused of conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine. It also emerged that another ex-aide, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents.
Just over a week ago, US media said his legal team had told the president’s lawyers they could no longer discuss the case, prompting suggestions that he had begun co-operating with prosecutors. If confirmed, that would indicate Mr Flynn’s lawyers have reached a plea bargain.
What is Flynn charged with?
According to the charge sheet, Michael Flynn is accused of:
- falsely telling FBI agents that on or about 29 December 2016 he did not ask Russia’s then ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day”
- failing to recall that Mr Kislyak had later told him Russia was moderating its response to the sanctions as a result of his request
- falsely saying that on or about 22 December 2016 he did not ask Mr Kislyak to “delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution”. Although there is no detail of the resolution in question, the discussion came a day before the Obama administration decided not to veto a resolution asserting that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory “had no legal validity”.
Is this damaging for President Trump?
By Anthony Zurcher, BBC News North America reporter
Michael Flynn lost his prized national security adviser post because of December 2016 conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Now he’s facing criminal charges.
That’s bad news for Mr Flynn, but it could be even worse news for Donald Trump, who reportedly directly lobbied former FBI Director James Comey to back off the Flynn investigation before firing the top law man.
The charges could be an indication that Mr Flynn is co-operating with the independent counsel’s office.
If that’s the case, there’s no telling where the investigation could next lead. Was Mr Flynn acting independently, or did he tell anyone else in the Trump transition team about his conversations with Sergei Kislyak? What about his 2016 work for individuals connected to the Turkish government, for which he had to register after-the-fact as a foreign lobbying agent?
Perhaps most concerning for the Trump White House is that the latest move by Mr Mueller’s team is not directly connected to the indictment of former campaign chair Paul Manafort or the guilty plea of former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying about his own contacts with the Russian government.
The independent counsel investigation is casting a very wide net, and they just landed their biggest fish yet.
Who is Michael Flynn?
Mr Flynn lost his role as national security adviser after only 23 days in the post, when it emerged he had misled Vice President Mike Pence over his discussions with the then Russian ambassador over lifting US sanctions on Russia.
But he has since become embroiled in further allegations. US media reported last month that he and his son had been offered $15m (£11.5m) by Turkey to help forcibly remove a Muslim cleric from the US and deliver him to Turkey. His lawyer condemned the reports as “outrageous”.
A retired three-star lieutenant-general in the US Army, he lost his job in the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2014 under President Barack Obama. He later aligned himself with the Trump campaign.