Dem Intel Committee Leaders Stress Need For Independence After Flynn Plea

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Friday placed the news of Michael Flynn’s guilty plea in the context of what he called “an alarming pattern” of presidential actions designed to interfere with investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

His counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said  Flynn’s admitted “lies to the FBI” were “especially significant”

Flynn’s plea, Warner said, “comes on the heels of a new report about the President’s efforts to silence the independent, bipartisan Senate investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russia.” (Read his full statement below)

He appeared to be referring to a New York Times report Thursday that Trump has frequently pressured senators to end the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation.

“It is part of an alarming pattern in which the President has already fired the FBI Director; pressured the Attorney General and top U.S. intelligence officials to interfere with an ongoing investigation; and contemplated issuing pardons for his associates or firing the special counsel, according to numerous press reports,” Warner continued. “Members of Congress from both parties must make clear that those actions would be fundamentally unacceptable and incompatible with the rule of law.”

Schiff, for his part, said that the “significance” of Flynn’s plea deal “cannot be overstated.”

The Statement of the Offense included important new details, including that Flynn was directed by a senior transition official to contact Russian officials in an effort to influence Russia’s response to the Obama Administration’s imposition of sanctions and the UN Security Council resolution vote on Israeli settlements, and, crucially, that he reported back to transition officials,” he said.

Read Schiff’s full statement below, followed by Warner’s full statement.

The significance of today’s plea deal by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in which he pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the Special Counsel, cannot be overstated. The Statement of the Offense included important new details, including that Flynn was directed by a senior transition official to contact Russian officials in an effort to influence Russia’s response to the Obama Administration’s imposition of sanctions and the UN Security Council resolution vote on Israeli settlements, and, crucially, that he reported back to transition officials.

Flynn’s lies to the FBI are especially significant because they were made at a time when he was serving as President Trump’s National Security Advisor, a position of incredible importance and responsibility, and one integral to the safety of the nation.  Flynn’s decision to admit to these lies and cooperate with the Special Counsel occurred, if press reports are to be believed, with the backdrop of broad legal exposure by Flynn, in addition to his son.

The action today by the Special Counsel is another indication of the thoroughness and professionalism of Robert Mueller and his team, who have been methodically working towards identifying and prosecuting potential criminal acts. We hope that the cooperation of General Flynn that Special Counsel has secured as a part of this plea agreement extends to Flynn’s cooperation with our committee, as his testimony could greatly advance our efforts. Our investigation in Congress is not only looking at the actions of individuals affiliated with the Trump campaign, but is also examining the broader issues of how the Russians worked to undermine our election and what steps we as a nation can take to harden our electoral process in future. 

The plea secured by Mueller may prompt the White House and its allies to seek to curtail congressional investigations, as President Trump has attempted to do already, or end the Special Counsel’s work prematurely. Congress must make it clear that this would not be acceptable, that we will continue doing a diligent and thoughtful investigation, and do everything in our power to ensure the independence of the Special Counsel.

Read Warner’s full statement below:

The Special Counsel’s probe has found illegal behavior stretching into the senior most levels of the White House. Mike Flynn has pled guilty to criminal conduct, while he was serving as National Security Adviser to the President of the United States, involving his contact with Russian officials. This follows the guilty plea of a Trump campaign aide; charges against a Trump campaign manager; and charges against a key aide to the Trump campaign and transition.

This guilty plea also comes on the heels of a new report about the President’s efforts to silence the independent, bipartisan Senate investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russia. It is part of an alarming pattern in which the President has already fired the FBI Director; pressured the Attorney General and top U.S. intelligence officials to interfere with an ongoing investigation; and contemplated issuing pardons for his associates or firing the special counsel, according to numerous press reports. Members of Congress from both parties must make clear that those actions would be fundamentally unacceptable and incompatible with the rule of law.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence takes seriously our responsibility to continue a thorough, bipartisan probe that follows the facts wherever they may lead.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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