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The Under the Radar Effect of Mueller Heavily Redacting Michael Flynn’s Sentencing Memo


Robert Mueller grand jury Andrii Artemenko Ukrainian businessman

Robert Mueller‘s much-anticipated sentencing memorandum for fired Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn fell flat, in some ways. The juiciest details, the information about the investigations Flynn aided, were redacted.

Mueller did say that Flynn’s “assistance” was  “substantial” enough for him to think no jail time was warranted.

But whether or not Mueller intended it, by filing this under partial seal he prevents a more complete picture of the status of his investigation from developing. Mueller doesn’t want to tip off witnesses or suspects, but he also doesn’t want to be silenced. For anyone concerned about the prospect of Mueller being fired or the Russia investigation being threatened in any way by acting AG Matthew Whitaker, filing under seal could be seen as creating an opportunity for someone to petition a judge to unseal it at a later date. One of the concerns about Whitaker, a vocal Mueller critic, is that he can decide what the public does and doesn’t learn about Mueller’s final report; he can decide whether it goes public at all.

Mueller’s redacted information doesn’t vanish into thin air — this a preview of the Russia report. The main takeaway is that Mueller, just by including things in reports we cannot read now, is taking steps to insulate himself and the investigation from damage.

Mueller will have another opportunity on Friday to accomplish the same goal, though it’s still not clear how much of the Paul Manafort memo will be redacted.

“After signing the plea agreement, Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters, which constitute breaches of the agreement,” Mueller said in a filing. “The government will file a detailed sentencing submission to the Probation Department and the Court in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement herein.”

Law&Crime previously explored how Mueller’s publishing of a detailed report of Manafort’s alleged lies to investigators could be seen as a way to get around Whitaker or some other person who would take a hostile stance against releasing Mueller’s Russia report to the public.

Mueller’s awareness of the potential threats against his investigation has been the subject of discussion before.

[Image via Andrew Burton/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the editor-in-chief of Law&Crime.