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What Are the Consequences of Lying to the FBI?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

While you might have the right to remain silent, you certainly don't have a right to lie to the police. State laws can vary when it comes to false statements, but lying during federal investigation is a felony carrying a potential five year prison sentence.

And that's just your standard, run-of-the-mill federal obstruction of justice charge. What about misleading the FBI regarding your alleged contact with the Russian ambassador?

Inadvertent Information

Michael T. Flynn went from President Trump's national security advisor to unemployed and potentially criminally charged in just 24 days. At issue are contacts Flynn allegedly had with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States last December, before Trump took office:

Around the same time, Obama advisers heard separately from the F.B.I. about Mr. Flynn's conversation with Mr. Kislyak, whose calls were routinely monitored by American intelligence agencies that track Russian diplomats. The Obama advisers grew suspicious that perhaps there had been a secret deal between the incoming team and Moscow, which could violate the rarely enforced, two-century-old Logan Act barring private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers in disputes with the United States.

The Obama officials asked the F.B.I. if a quid pro quo had been discussed on the call, and the answer came back no, according to one of the officials, who like others asked not to be named discussing delicate communications. The topic of sanctions came up, they were told, but there was no deal.

The FBI later questioned Flynn about the calls during the first few days of Trump's administration. Regarding the conversations with Kislyak and the questions from the FBI, Flynn asserted he had not violated the law. "If I did," he told conservative news site the Daily Caller, "believe me, the F.B.I. would be down my throat, my clearances would be pulled. There were no lines crossed."

That was early Monday morning on February 13. Later that day he admitted he had "inadvertently" passed along "incomplete information" and resigned.

Federal False Statements

Flynn's resignation, however, doesn't quite put the matter to rest. As Just Security points out:

Sometimes the cover up is worse than the crime. On all these counts, administration and former campaign associates may need to consider the False Statements Crime, that is, if they spoke directly with investigators who have been handling these cases.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes it a federal crime for anyone who "in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully ... makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation." The same statute has been used to convict and imprison Rod Blagojevich, Scooter Libby, Bernard Madoff, Martha Stewart, and Jeffrey Skilling.

Flynn could face at least five years in jail, or he could be offered a plea bargain to provide information on other Trump campaign and administration associates.

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