National Security

Five takeaways from Mueller’s Flynn memo

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Special counsel Robert Mueller has told a federal judge that Michael Flynn should face no prison time, revealing that President Trump’s one-time national security adviser and campaign surrogate has provided “substantial assistance” in the Russia investigation.

Mueller disclosed Flynn’s extensive cooperation in a memo filed late Tuesday that, while heavily redacted in some areas, provides fresh details about the value and breadth of information Flynn has provided to prosecutors in the year since he agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation.  

{mosads}The filing also raises new questions about the status and scope of an investigation that has stretched into its 18th month amid growing attacks from the president and his allies.  

Here are five takeaways from Mueller’s new disclosure in Flynn’s case.

Flynn appears to have given Mueller valuable information

It’s impossible to know exactly what Flynn provided to Mueller, but the special counsel said Tuesday that Flynn provided valuable “firsthand” information in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Legal analysts say the “firsthand” disclosure is a sign Flynn’s testimony could be key to bringing charges against other individuals should Mueller uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

“There are basically two kinds of witnesses. The firsthand witness is the guy who is in the room,” said Elie Honig, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.“[Then] there are cooperators who just kind of have second-hand stuff.”

According to the memo, Flynn assisted the Russia investigation on a “range of issues,” including offering details on the “content and context” of interactions between unnamed members of the presidential transition team and the Russian government.

“His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation by the [special counsel’s office],” the memo states.

The special counsel asked U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan for a more lenient sentence for Flynn, who faces up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S. This is another tell that Mueller received valuable information.

“Gen. Flynn is involved, apparently, with significant aspects of that core charge to the special counsel’s office,” said Jack Sharman, a former special counsel to Congress for the Whitewater investigation. “That by itself makes him significant, and the special counsel’s office is to some degree putting its money where its mouth is.”

‘Several ongoing investigations’

Flynn’s assistance was not limited to the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Mueller revealed Tuesday that Flynn assisted with “several ongoing investigations,” sitting for 19 interviews with the special counsel’s office and other Justice Department attorneys. The redacted document indicates that Flynn has helped with an ongoing criminal investigation and at least one other matter beyond the core Russia probe, though the details are heavily redacted.

The mere mention of the criminal probe suggests the existence of a case in which individuals could be charged in the future. The case could be entirely separate from the original Russia investigation, but more likely is related.

“What is clear is that Flynn was cooperating or is cooperating in multiple aspects of the investigation that seem to go to different areas and individuals,” said Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. “Like all federal cooperators, they are required to cooperate in all matters, whether that relates to Trump, the Russians or anyone else, and it seems he’s doing so.”  

More is likely to come

There’s a lot the public memo doesn’t include and that only the judge is seeing, which is meant to protect ongoing investigations.

On Tuesday, Mueller concealed details about “several” probes in which Flynn has cooperated, leading some analysts to predict that more shoes are going to drop.

“It may be something we already know about, it may be something brand new and shocking,” Honig said.

Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor in D.C., said it also remains an “open question” whether Flynn will be a testifying witness at any upcoming trials. While Mueller’s decision to move forward with Flynn’s sentencing suggests his prosecutors are finished debriefing the former national security adviser, it does not preclude Mueller from calling him for future testimony.

Flynn’s cooperation is a warning sign for Trump

Legal analysts say the substance and value of Flynn’s cooperation will not be welcome news to the president or his team of lawyers.

Flynn was a key confidant to Trump throughout the campaign, serving a brief stint as national security adviser before he was forced to resign in February 2017. His decision to cooperate turns a top Trump adviser into a Mueller witness.

“It’s clearly a warning sign when your national security adviser and a person who was a prime contact or intermediary between the campaign and the Russians has been deemed to give substantial assistance to federal law enforcement,” said Waxman. “If I were the president, I would take great discomfort in that notion.”

Still, nothing definitive can be gleaned from the new filing about how Flynn’s testimony might impact Trump. Indeed, Mueller’s prosecutors have said nothing in public filings or court proceedings to indicate Trump is the focus of their investigation.

“It’s clearly substantive, as shown by 19 interviews,” observed Sharman. “But I don’t think you can take from that or from the breadth of the redactions exactly what significance that holds for the president.”

No signs of whether Mueller is close to wrapping up

Despite press reports that Mueller is close to wrapping up, the new filing offers few clues about whether that’s true.

While Flynn’s upcoming sentencing on Dec. 18 will represent a milestone, Mueller is scrutinizing longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and his allies and only recently secured a formal cooperation deal with Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen.

The revelation that Flynn has assisted additional inquiries has led some to believe the investigation could extend well into 2019.

“I think it’s fair to infer that Mueller might not be as far along as we hoped,” Kirschner said.

Still, others say it’s impossible to conclude from the latest memo where the Mueller probe stands. It is also possible that any offshoot probes referenced in the filing are being undertaken by other Justice Department officials and will continue even after Mueller issues his final report on the Russia investigation.

“The redactions can detail historical events that Mr. Flynn has cooperated on or they could focus on ongoing efforts and what we call proactive cooperation that is still taking place today,” Waxman said. “I don’t think we can get any certainty on where the Mueller investigation stands or whether it is close to concluding.”

Tags court filing Donald Trump Flynn sentencing Robert Mueller Roger Stone Special Counsel investigation

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