U.S. President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an investigation that is essentially about possible collusion between Trump's campaign team and Russia, before and after the presidential elections.
It is indeed significant that President Trump's former top aide admitted that he lied about the contacts he made with the Russian officials in the wake of the elections. So now we know Flynn talked to the Russian ambassador in Washington before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and that he lied about these conversations. We still don't know, however, exactly what he talked to the Russians about.
While Flynn claims he discussed the U.S. sanctions against Russia with the ambassador, he also admitted that he misled U.S. Vice President Mike Pence about the content of the talks. By pleading guilty, Flynn accepted to fully cooperate with the investigation team on the inquiry into the actions of Donald Trump's inner circle before he took office. Nevertheless, we don't know if the special prosecutor on the case already has enough evidence to prove Russian meddling in the U.S. electoral process. All Flynn has said until now was related to the sanctions imposed to Russia because of Crimea's annexation.
The sanctions against Russia are probably disturbing for some economic and political circles in the U.S. as well and they would like to see them lifted.
Flynn said he didn't meet with the Russian officials on a personal basis and that he was directed to make contact with the Russian ambassador by a "very senior member" of the Trump transition team. If true, that means Trump's team was, from the start, in favor of developing friendly relations with Russia. This is their political choice, and not a crime in itself. The problem is they are suspected of bargaining secretly with the Russian officials even before Trump took office, without notifying the federal government about it.
If the accusations are true, that means the Trump team had taken unnecessary risks. They could have just waited for Trump to become president, then lift the sanctions and cooperate with Russia as much as they like. Why the rush?
They were in a hurry, because the Democrats were claiming that Trump had won the elections thanks to Russian interference in the campaign, and it was clear from day one that the same Democrats would do anything to prevent Trump to work while in the White House. This is exactly what is happening right now: These contacts with the Russians are being used by his opponents to attack Trump. Even though he became president, Trump has clearly been unable to control the system until now.
If Russia did interfere in the U.S. presidential election in some way and if the Russian intelligence agencies have indeed tried to get Trump elected, what was Kremlin hoping to achieve with a Trump presidency, anyway?
This doesn't have an easy answer, because for now, Russia doesn't seem to benefit much from the Trump administration. One may say Moscow had won in Syria, but it was winning there already and besides, the U.S. is also benefitting from this situation.
We know that lying to the FBI is a federal offence, especially on such a politicized case. Yet it is not easy to think that the contacts of one person, even if that person is the president-elect's adviser, can jeopardize the security of the entire U.S. If he can, then maybe the U.S. is a much weaker country than we think. Moreover, with every passing day, the U.S. looks more like a place where the established bureaucracy has an agenda set against the country's elected president.
What if the current administration's Russia policy has nothing to do with strategic choices, but rather it was only about sanctions and economic gains? This wouldn't be good news either, as it would prove the U.S. is open to all kinds of economic manipulation.