Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI in special counsel's Russia probe

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised "full cooperation" in the special counsel's Russia investigation.
8:24 | 12/02/17

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Transcript for Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI in special counsel's Russia probe
This is an ABC news special report -- Major news in the Russia investigation -- Robert Mueller has charged lieutenant general Michael T. Flynn -- The president himself learned of it when he read it if the news. Reporter: The cloud of suspicion hovering over the white house grew darker today. Make no mistake, Mueller approved this deal to get something. Flynn's extremely angry at the white house tonight -- Reporter: Shortly after 10:00 A.M., potential national security adviser Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the high-level Russian official. Flynn telling associates he's prepared to testify against president trump and his closest advisers for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The next president of the United States, right here! Reporter: According to a Flynn confidant, he's willing to say it was trump himself, as president-elect, who directed him to reach out to Russian leaders about fighting ISIS. Reaction to the stunning development was swift. Clearly he's willing to lie about those contacts. And lie to the FBI. And I'm anxious to hear from him a fuller explanation of who directed him to have these contacts. This is so significant. You're talking about someone's national security adviser. Someone with a military background who pled guilty to lying to the FBI, to the federal government. I know everyone's -- I give Democrats and liberals this moment. Reporter: Flynn is yet another team trump member found to have indus closed interactions with Russian officials along with attorney general Jeff sessions, Jared Kushner, Carter page, George papadopoulos, Paul manafort, and Donald Trump Jr. Bob Mueller, special counsel, is a diligent, methodical investigator. And this is simply another step along the way to uncover what happened here. And then today's news is just a dramatic step. Reporter: Melinda Hague is a former federal prosecute history worked for Mueller. The investigation has reached a member of the inner circle of president trump, somebody who served as a close adviser to the president. We are one step away from the president, really. Reporter: This was the only glimpse of president trump today. Any comment on Michael Flynn being indicted, sir? Reporter: A few minutes later the white house abruptly cancels a planned photo op with the Libyan prime minister. The president's lawyer released a statement that seemed to distance the white house from Flynn saying, in part, nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. I think on its face it has a lot to do with people other than general Flynn. Reporter: One of those people, the president's son-in-law. Documents released today say a very senior official in the transition team told Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador about a U.N. Resolution involving Israel. We are now told that person was Jared Kushner. Ivanka Trump's husband. Flynn now admitting he lied about his discussions of that U.N. Resolution. Flynn also admits to lying to the FBI about a phone call with Russian ambassador sergei kislyak on December 29th last year. The same day president Obama announced sanctions against Russia for interfering in the U.S. Presidential campaign in 2016. Something the U.S. Intelligence community confirmed, stating, Russia's actions favored Donald Trump. Flynn falsely told the FBI and vice president Mike pence that he didn't talk about the sanctions with kislyak. But in February, intelligence leaks reportedly from wiretaps of kislyak's phone calls showed that Flynn had asked that Russians not escalate the situation. Very surprising to think that general Flynn would not understand and believe that any conversation he had with ambassador kislyak would not be picked up by a wiretap. Reporter: Flynn forced to resign less than a month into his NSA post. At the time, trump insisted Flynn's sin wasn't that he reached out to the rugs, B Russians but that he lied to vice president pence. He was doing his job. The thing is he didn't tell our vice president properly, and that he said he didn't remember. So either way it wasn't very satisfactory to me. Reporter: The day after Flynn resigned, president trump met privately with then-fbi director James Comey who told congress trump made a request. I understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians. Reporter: Trump ultimately fired Comey in may. I think it's hard to believe that the special counsel is not investigating whether the firing of the FBI director, Jim Comey, was intended to shut down the investigation of general Flynn. Reporter: Firing Comey is what prompted the appointment of special counsel Mueller. Today Comey tweeted, but justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." The scales of justice now centering around Michael Flynn, who faces up to five years in prison. It's a stunning fall from grace for the retired three-star general. Mike Flynn spent more than 30 years in the army. He was well respected as an officer. He was considered a very brilliant intelligence officer. But there was a point after he became head of defense intelligence agency where his leadership went awry. Reporter: At the Republican national convention, he famously called for Hillary Clinton to go to prison. Lock her up act, that's right. Yep, that's right, lock her up. He didn't go out there, I don't think, planning on saying "Lock her up." But when he heard the crowd, you could just see him when you were there in the convention, he was just feeding off that crowd. But when you get that sort of power and attention mixed with that bitterness, I think that's probably what really changed Mike Flynn. Reporter: In a statement released today, Flynn said in part, it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of treason and other outrageous acts. Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. 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. I accept full responsibility for my actions." It was just after the election that president Obama had expressed his profound concerns to trump about Flynn's trustworthiness. And Sally Yates, the then-acting head of the department of just justice, alerted the white house counsel that Flynn had lied to the vice president about his contacts with Russians and was vulnerable to blackmail. We were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what general Flynn had done. Reporter: Four days later, trump fired Yates citing her refusal to support his travel ban. I would be surprised if the special counsel is not now looking into the firings of Sally Yates and trying to determine whether the president fired Sally Yates for reasons connected to general Flynn and not for reasons connected to the travel ban. Reporter: Despite the president's insistence -- Russia is fake news. Russia, this is fake news put out by the media. Reporter: Evidence continues to grow that appears to point to the contrary. Adding to the confusion, trump has also failed to enforce the sanctions against Russia, overwhelmingly approved by congress as punishment for the country's 2016 meddling. Looks like the Russians, whatever you think of all these stories, get exactly what they want. They get to meddle in the election, undermine faith in American democracy, and start to get the policy outcomes in terms of a president who's a lot less tough on them than they might otherwise have. Reporter: So many asking why does the president of the united States have such a fondness for a country that's openly hostile to America? This story is a head-scratcher for even staunch allies of the white house. They cannot figure out why president trump seems to have a soft spot for Russia. Reporter: The president could pardon Flynn but not without severe consequences. This investigation goes all the way to reportedly the president's son-in-law. And according to some it goes all the way to the president. It seems to me that under these circumstances, if the president pardoned general Flynn, it would be political suicide.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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