The court filings from former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn's plea hearing Friday show special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators are focused on the actions of President Donald Trump and his senior team.
One of the officials, described as a "very senior member" of the presidential transition team, also directed Flynn to contact foreign government officials, including Russia's, about a UN Security Council resolution regarding Israeli settlements.
Flynn's catastrophic mistake was that he lied about the December 29 calls, first in denials to Trump spokesmen that were shared with me and other reporters on January 12, then to Vice President Pence and, most important, to Federal Bureau of Investigation officials who interviewed him on January 24.
"I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong", Flynn said in a statement. My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel's office reflect a decision I made int he best interests of my family and our country.
"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.
President Obama warns Trump during a meeting at the White House that Flynn is a problem.
He was forced to resign that post in February, just weeks after the president took office, due to public concerns over his contacts with Russian Federation.
Early on in is administration, Trump had taken a particular interest in the status of the Flynn investigation.
"The conclusion of this phase of the special counsel's work demonstrates again that the special counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion", Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, said in a statement.
A lawyer for Flynn informs Trump's lawyers that they can no longer share information with the White House.
Friday's news made clear that Trump's inner circle, if not the president himself, are increasingly under threat by Mueller's investigation.
At the center of this story is a mystery that will propel the rest of the inquiry: What was Trump so anxious about that it made him deny contacts with Russian Federation and denounce attempts to investigate those contacts? Congressional staff have done the same with respect to their separate probes. The next day, Trump met privately with then-FBI Director James B. Comey.
Since the first allegations of Russian interference past year, Trump has dismissed it as "fake news" and an excuse for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's stunning loss in the election.
During the Republican National Convention in July 2016, when Trump was officially nominated as the GOP's candidate, Flynn led the entire convention in a repeated chant of "Lock her up!"
"Since the first day I took office, all you hear is the phony Democrat excuse for losing the election, Russia, Russia, Russia", he tweeted last week.
Mueller's team announced charges in October against three other Trump campaign officials, former chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and a former campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos.