Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, is expected to enter a guilty plea for lying to the FBI. The feds contend that on January 24, 2017 Flynn lied to investigators about his interactions with the Russian Ambassador. Flynn’s guilty plea and subsequent plea deal with Mueller’s team is not good news for President Donald Trump and other senior officials at the White House. It definitely means that Flynn is cooperating with the investigation. And, it appears he could be giving up some very important information. Here’s why:
#1 This directly relates to Russia. Unlike former Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort who was charged with crimes un-related to his time with the Trump campaign, Flynn has been charged with lying to the feds regarding activities that occurred when he was part of the Trump transition team, and very much actively involved in the day-to-day affairs of the President. They also specifically involve Trump campaign interference into the affairs of Russia. Specifically, court records say Flynn lied about:
- asking Russia’s ambassador to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day
- lying to the FBI about the Russian Ambassador telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions
- lying about asking the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council Resolution
“This is the first indictment (and guilty plea) of someone working directly for POTUS in as high a role as exists in the White House during the Trump presidency itself. And it strikes at the heart of the conspiracy with foreign powers against the U.S.,” Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe explained.
What’s more, Flynn lied to investigators, according to court records, on January 24 2017. That is four days after the inauguration, and at the very start of the Trump presidency. Flynn was known to be very close with the President, and directly involved in his everyday affairs. Flynn has been under suspicion for a laundry list of possible crimes, many of which did not relate to Russia. Despite that, the feds decided to include in their criminal information complaint items directly related to the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
“(Mueller’s team) consciously picked the substance (of the Flynn indictment) and it related to Russia. There could have been a host of things he wasn’t truthful about but they specifically picked Russia which may be a significant clue that it is a focus of their investigation,” former federal prosecutor Henry Hockeimer explained to Law&Crime.
The lies that Mueller included in court paperwork have tentacles that go far beyond Michael Flynn himself.
“Those two lies implicate a lot of people” Michael Zeldin, former Special Assistant to Robert Mueller to the DOJ said on CNN.
#2 The Flynn Charge is Relatively Minor. The charge that Flynn is pleading guilty to is relatively minor as federal charges go. Flynn is charged with one count of making a false statement. While the crime is a felony, the punishment calls for a maximum of 5 years in prison. However, likely under current sentencing guidelines, Flynn would not face anything close to that. He may not face any prison time at all. Why is that troubling for Trump (or others higher up in the food chain)?
“Typically, when you have a defendant target (like Flynn) who you have been investigating and you charge them with one count of false statements — not only are they cooperating — they are providing significant information,” explained Hockeimer. “The lesser charge would not come out very hard. He must have given something substantial for the government to agree to it.”
Last month, policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements during a January 27, 2017 interview with the FBI. He apparently lied about his communications with a professor who had ties to the Russian government. Law&Crime reported then that wasn’t good news for Trump. However, the Flynn charge is even more troubling because it signifies that Mueller has his eyes on a very high up target in the Trump White House. Who is their ultimate target? It’s not clear. However, from this vantage point, it sure looks like they may be looking at the President himself.
This is a breaking news story, and Law&Crime is providing analysis in real time. We will update this post accordingly.
[Screengrab via C-SPAN]