Mueller moots ‘no jail time’ for Michael Flynn

Gulf Times - - AMERICAS -

Robert Mueller, the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor in charge of the Rus­sia elec­tion med­dling probe, rec­om­mended on Tues­day that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn face no jail time due to his “sub­stan­tial” co-op­er­a­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mueller said in a court fil­ing that Flynn, who ad­mit­ted last year to ly­ing about his con­tacts with Rus­sians fol­low­ing Trump’s Novem­ber 2016 elec­tion vic­tory, had helped in his and other un­spec­i­fied fed­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing be­ing in­ter­viewed 19 times.

Mueller also told the Wash­ing­ton Fed­eral court that de­spite his “se­ri­ous” of­fence, the re­tired three-star gen­eral and for­mer Pen­tagon in­tel­li­gence chief had a strong record of mil­i­tary and pub­lic ser­vice.

The sur­prise rec­om­men­da­tion came ahead of Flynn’s up­com­ing sen­tenc­ing, which had been post­poned four times over the past year.

Those post­pone­ments in­di­cated that, once hos­tile to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that threat­ens Trump and his in­ner cir­cle, he had pos­si­bly be­come a valu­able wit­ness.

“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.

Flynn’s was the first guilty plea se­cured by the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged col­lu­sion be­tween Trump’s elec­tion cam­paign and Rus­sia.

His po­si­tion as a top-level in­sider in the cam­paign, ac­com­pa­ny­ing Trump to key events, mak­ing a key­note speech at the July 2016 Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, and then tak­ing hold of the White House na­tional se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus in Trump’s first weeks in of­fice, made him a po­ten­tially ex­tremely valu­able wit­ness.

But many thought his own prob­lems had likely com­pro­mised that value.

In an in­ter­view with in­ves­ti­ga­tors on Jan­uary 24, 2017, four days after Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, Flynn lied about con­ver­sa­tions he had the pre­vi­ous De­cem­ber with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to the US, Sergei Kislyak.

In those con­ver­sa­tions, ap­par­ently recorded by US in­tel­li­gence, Flynn ap­peared to be try­ing to un­der­mine the pol­icy of then-pres­i­dent Barack Obama by mak­ing sep­a­rate po­lit­i­cal deals with Moscow.

Obama at the time was plan­ning sanc­tions on Rus­sia for its in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

Flynn urged the Rus­sians not to re­tal­i­ate, sug­gest­ing Trump would re­verse the sanc­tions.

Within weeks, Flynn was forced to re­sign after it was al­leged that he also had lied to top White House of­fi­cials about his Kislyak talks.

Then in March 2018, in a sec­ond in­ter­view with the FBI, Flynn lied about the fact that be­fore and after the elec­tion, he had a $530,000 lob­by­ing con­tract on be­half of Turkey that he had not re­ported.

“At the time, the de­fen­dant was a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor and sur­ro­gate for the Trump cam­paign who opined pub­licly on for­eign pol­icy and na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues,” the sen­tenc­ing mem­o­ran­dum noted.

De­spite the light sen­tence rec­om­men­da­tion, the mem­o­ran­dum gave no hint as to what Flynn had told the Mueller team about the op­er­a­tions of the Trump cam­paign and its Rus­sia ties.

Mueller has iden­ti­fied numer­ous con­tacts, in­clud­ing ef­forts by Trump aides dur­ing 2016 to set up a meet­ing be­tween him and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

In an­other sur­prise, last week Trump’s for­mer per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen ad­mit­ted that through the first half of 2016, even after Trump had se­cured the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent, he had top-level con­tacts with Moscow over a project to build a po­ten­tially 100-story Trump Tower in the Rus­sian cap­i­tal.

Mueller is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing a June 2016 meet­ing that top cam­paign staff, in­clud­ing chair­man Paul Manafort, Trump’s son Don­ald Jr, and son-in-law Jared Kush­ner, had with a Rus­sian lawyer who had of­fered dirt on Trump’s elec­tion op­po­nent Hil­lary Clin­ton.

And a sep­a­rate doc­u­ment sug­gested that Mueller has ev­i­dence that a Trump cam­paign ad­vi­sor, Roger Stone, sought to co­or­di­nate with Wik­iLeaks as it pub­lished em­bar­rass­ing Clin­ton-re­lated emails that were stolen and fed to it by Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence.

A heav­ily redacted ad­den­dum to the Flynn mem­o­ran­dum Tues­day added more tan­ta­lis­ing hints. It in­di­cated that Flynn was also aid­ing one or more other fed­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­lated to the Trump cam­paign, but not be­ing led by Mueller.

Those po­ten­tially could in­clude an ex­am­i­na­tion of Trump’s fi­nan­cial ties to Rus­sia through his real es­tate busi­ness.

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