Flynn’s gift still wrapped
Expect Mueller’s probe and others to keep going
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is not close to being over. Even if it was, the other investigations branching out from it are not.
We know this because Mueller argues Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, should get a light sentence because of the value of his cooperation, court documents filed Tuesday say. Mueller even supports a sentence with no prison time. Yet what Flynn cooperated about was mostly blacked out in versions of the documents released to the public.
The U.S. Justice Department does not black out whole pages of text in court documents about things it checked out, found everything is on the up and up and closed the book.
Flynn pleaded guilty a year ago to lying to “multiple Department of Justice entities on multiple occasions,” to quote Tuesday’s document. Federal investigators do not casually forgive people who lie to them, either. Those who get forgiveness — and recommendations for light sentences — make up for their lies only by telling truths that survive scrutiny.
Before going on, let me make something very clear. Partisans on both sides claim the Mueller investigation will have no value unless it delivers the goods on President Donald Trump. One side wants the president removed from office. The other side wants him cleared. Either view is pure politics, not justice.
There are other Americans besides the president who could have conspired with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election, the core issue Mueller is investigating. There are also other crimes in the law books besides conspiracy to interfere with the election. In investigating known Russian interference, Mueller is legally and ethically bound to not ignore other crimes he finds. He is also specifically directed to go after any crimes committed to interfere with his investigation.
One year ago tomorrow, I put this in this newspaper:
“I do not yet believe President Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government in the 2016 election. I strongly suspect others close to him did. I also expect the president would not want any such connection exposed, even if those close to him were mere dupes rather than active collaborators.”
My view of the matter has not changed. Mueller should keep going for as long as it takes. Let the chips fall.
Now, getting back to Flynn and the text, both blocked and unblocked. First off, here is a good link to Tuesday’s documents: http://lawfare blog.com/document-special-counsel-filesflynn-sentencing-memo. The filing argues Flynn held nothing back, providing both testimony and records.
I do not know how much weight to put behind the fact that the very first argument Mueller puts forth on Flynn’s behalf involves another investigation, not Mueller’s. The title of the investigation that got first mention is mostly blocked out, ending with “Criminal Investigation.” Then there is a fragment of the first sentence, “The defendant has provided substantial assistance in a criminal investigation” — followed by 22 lines of black stripe. Then the document goes straight to the second section: “The Special Counsel’s Office’s Investigation,” meaning Mueller’s.
The second section on the Mueller team’s investigation deals first with “links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”
The next time anyone says “no collusion,” point to the 31 lines of blacked-out text that follow the title of the second section. Collusion — the proper legal term would be conspiracy, but whatever — can happen after an election, too. For example, someone can conspire with a foreign government before taking office to undermine the efforts of the sitting president. One example of such efforts could be, say, undermining the expected impact of sanctions imposed by the soon-departing President Barack Obama that included seizing Russian consulates.
The president is the president until he is not. Presumably, there are other matters besides those “links or coordination” that Mueller’s team is looking into, but there is not enough unblocked text to show what those are.
Finally, there appears to be at least one more topic on which Flynn provided valuable assistance, but the text is too blocked out to tell. In theory, what’s left could be subsections of “Section B,” the Special Counsel’s Office’s Investigation,” but I would not swear to that.
Flynn delivered. He provided valuable information. Information that shows no crimes took place is valuable — perhaps the most valuable of all — but that kind does not get covered by black stripes.