Trump pres­sured over probe

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­peared in­creas­ingly un­der threat from the Rus­sia col­lu­sion probe on Wed­nes­day after a court fil­ing re­vealed that his former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn co­op­er­ated ex­ten­sively in mul­ti­ple high-level in­ves­ti­ga­tions over the past year.

A sen­tenc­ing rec­om­men­da­tion late on Tues­day from Rus­sia probe head Robert Mueller that Flynn spend no time in jail ex­plained that the re­tired three-star gen­eral had given “sub­stan­tial as­sis­tance” to his and other se­cret high-level in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Un­der­scor­ing the level of co­op­er­a­tion, the fil­ing in the fed­eral court in Wash­ing­ton spelled out that Flynn had been in­ter­viewed a to­tal of 19 times over the past year – dur­ing which his sen­tenc­ing for one charge of ly­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors had been post­poned four times.

“Given the de­fen­dant’s sub­stan­tial as­sis­tance and other con­sid­er­a­tions set forth be­low, a sen­tence at the low end of the guide­line range – in­clud­ing a sen­tence that does not im­pose a term of in­car­cer­a­tion – is ap­pro­pri­ate and war­ranted,” Mueller said in a mem­o­ran­dum to the court.

That came on the heels of Trump’s ex-per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen ad­mit­ting in a court fil­ing last week that he had been in con­tact with a top aide to Rus­sia Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin well into the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign over ob­tain­ing a green light to de­velop a 100-storey Trump Tower in Moscow.

Co­hen made clear that, con­trary to the pres­i­dent’s pre­vi­ous de­nials, he had in­formed Trump and mem­bers of his fam­ily about the project through­out the first half of 2016, even after Trump had se­cured the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Mueller build­ing a case

Taken to­gether, the two cases added to the ev­i­dence that Mueller is build­ing a case that there was fre­quent and pos­si­bly sys­tem­atic com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Trump’s in­ner cir­cle and Moscow ahead of the Novem­ber 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion that could bol­ster charges of per­jury or even con­spir­acy to col­lude with the Rus­sians.

After hav­ing con­demned Co­hen as a liar and say­ing he de­served a “full and com­plete” jail sen­tence, Trump was no­tably silent early on Wed­nes­day about the im­pli­ca­tions of what Flynn may have told in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Flynn was a top-level in­sider in the 2016 cam­paign, ac­com­pa­ny­ing Trump to key events and mak­ing a key­note speech at the July Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, where he led the au­di­ence in a rous­ing cheer to “lock up” Trump’s elec­tion ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton.

He then took hold of na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy in the White House in Trump’s first weeks in of­fice, mak­ing him a po­ten­tially ex­tremely valu­able wit­ness.

The sen­tenc­ing mem­o­ran­dum from Mueller, how­ever, gave no hint of what the former head of the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency has said.

It said he co­op­er­ated on ques­tions re­gard­ing Mueller’s ex­am­i­na­tion of ac­tions by se­nior of­fi­cials of Trump’s tran­si­tion team be­tween the elec­tion and the in­au­gu­ra­tion on Jan­uary 20 last year.

That could point to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kush­ner, or Trump’s former deputy chief of staff Rick Dear­born.

That was the pe­riod in which Flynn re­peat­edly had se­cret phone dis­cus­sions with then-Rus­sian Am­bas­sador to the US Sergei Kislyak that he later lied about, which led to his early ex­pul­sion from the White House and then to charges he lied to Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

But in a heav­ily redacted ad­den­dum to Tues­day’s mem­o­ran­dum, Mueller in­di­cated that Flynn was help­ing on two other in­ves­ti­ga­tions that ap­peared to have deep na­tional se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions.

That could be an omi­nous sig­nal for Trump, Adam Schiff, the se­nior Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, sug­gested.

“That most of the de­tails are redacted sig­nals he has given far more than we or the Pres­i­dent may know,” Schiff said in a tweet.

MAN­DEL NGAN/AFP

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to mem­bers of the mil­i­tary via tele­con­fer­ence from his Mar-a-Lago re­sort in Palm Beach, Flor­ida, on Novem­ber 22.

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