President Trump was dragged into the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election for the first time om Friday night.
According to a Telegraph report, Michael Flynn, who on Friday admitted lying to the FBI, has agreed to work with investigators looking into Russian election meddling as part of a plea bargain.
He is prepared to say that Donald Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians”, according to a bombshell report by ABC News.
The claim sent the US stock market tumbling and brought the Russian election scandal a step closer to the Oval Office in a dramatic day in Washington.
Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law, was also named in US media reports as another figure who asked Flynn to reach out to officials from Russia, among other countries.
The White House fought back on Friday night, labelling Mr Flynn a “former Obama administration official” who spent just 25 days in the Trump administration.
The row overshadowed news that Mr Trump has enough Senate votes to pass major tax cuts in what would be his biggest legislative victory.
Allegations that Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government – blamed for hacking Democratic Party emails during the campaign – to win the election have dogged his first year in office.
Flynn is the first White House official to be charged as part of an investigation into Russian election meddling led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Three other Trump campaign figures – Paul Manafort, Richard Gates and George Papadopoulos – were charged in October.
Flynn, a former general and senior intelligence official, played a prominent role in Mr Trump’s campaign and became US national security adviser after the election victory, before resigning a month later over his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US.
On Friday he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on January 24 – just four days after Mr Trump’s inauguration – about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn admitted to urging Mr Kislyak not to hit back at new American sanctions on Russia during a meeting in December 2016, after Mr Trump won the election.
He also conceded he had asked the Russian ambassador to delay a vote on a UN security council resolution in the same month.
That is believed to be a reference to a resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territory, which Mr Trump opposed but Mr Obama’s administration planned to sit out.
While neither admission proves collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin before the election, it suggests that after victory Trump advisers were reaching out to Russia to undermine Mr Obama’s policies.
The more significant development could be Flynn’s willingness to work with investigators, given the central role he played during Mr Trump’s campaign.
Flynn has agreed to detail how “a senior official” of Mr Trump’s transition team at his Mar-a-Lago resort discussed what to tell the Russians, according to prosecutors.
Details about what another “very senior member” of the Trump transition team said about the UN vote are also set to be revealed.
Numerous US media outlets named Mr Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka, as the unnamed figure who discussed the UN vote.
ABC News, the US broadcaster, went a step further by saying Flynn is prepared to say that Mr Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians”.
US stock markets took an initial hit after the news, with the Dow Jones dropping 1.4 per cent and the S&P 500 falling 1.6 per cent before rallying later.
James Comey, the former FBI director fired by Mr Trump, reacted by quoting the Bible in a tweet: “But justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”