Flynn’s gift still wrapped

Ex­pect Mueller’s probe and oth­ers to keep go­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Doug Thomp­son Doug Thomp­son is a po­lit­i­cal re­porter and columnist for the North­west Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette. Email him at dthomp­[email protected] or on Twit­ter @NWADoug. let­[email protected]

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.

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