Flynn’s key role in Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Week (US) - - News -

What hap­pened

Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller told a judge this week that Michael Flynn, the former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, pro­vided “sub­stan­tial as­sis­tance” in sev­eral on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions and should be spared jail time, sig­nal­ing that pros­e­cu­tors be­lieve he’s helped them build a strong case that the Trump cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia. Flynn gave 19 in­ter­views to pros­e­cu­tors re­gard­ing three in­ves­ti­ga­tions—two in­volv­ing Rus­sia, with a third undis­closed. Most de­tails of Flynn’s co­op­er­a­tion were redacted from the sen­tenc­ing memo to avoid tip­ping in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ hand to pos­si­ble de­fen­dants, Pres­i­dent Trump’s le­gal team, and the pub­lic—which sug­gests Mueller’s fi­nal re­port could still be months away. Flynn, a former gen­eral and mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence chief, was an out­spo­ken cam­paign sur­ro­gate for Trump. He was fired, how­ever, after just 24 days in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, and last year pleaded guilty to ly­ing to the FBI about his con­tacts with Rus­sia’s U.S. am­bas­sador.

Mueller’s le­niency to­ward Flynn, one of five former Trump aides to plead guilty in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion so far, sends a clear mes­sage that wit­nesses can avoid prison by turn­ing against Trump. The pres­i­dent, mean­while, sent his own mes­sage. Long­time ad­viser Roger Stone re­fused this week to ap­pear be­fore a Se­nate com­mit­tee, and Trump lauded him, say­ing, “Nice to know that some peo­ple still have ‘guts!’” On the other hand, Trump tweeted that his former lawyer Michael Co­hen, who’s pleaded guilty to mul­ti­ple charges and is co­op­er­at­ing, de­serves “a full and com­plete sen­tence.” Former fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said these com­ments are wit­ness tam­per­ing and could be­come part of an ob­struc­tion-of-jus­tice case against Trump.

What the colum­nists said

“Flynn ap­pears to have come full cir­cle,” said David Ignatius in The Wash­ing­ton Post, from be­ing a “Trump cam­paign war­rior” who led chants of “Lock her up!” to a star wit­ness in the case that could bring down the pres­i­dent. “There’s a bizarre irony here,” be­cause it was Trump’s ef­forts to get then–FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey to let go of his in­quiry into Flynn that led to the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel. Mueller of­fered un­usu­ally “glow­ing praise” for Flynn, said The New York Times in an ed­i­to­rial. Once redac­tions are re­moved, we’ll learn why Trump was “so in­vested” in keep­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors away from him.

Jared Kush­ner might want to “start scram­bling,” said Tim­o­thy O’Brien in Bloomberg.com. Like Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law spoke with Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion, and sought to es­tab­lish a se­cret back chan­nel to the Krem­lin. “If Flynn of­fered fed­eral au­thor­i­ties a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of events than Kush­ner,” that’s the kind of “sub­stan­tial as­sis­tance” that could get Flynn out of a prison sen­tence—and Kush­ner in­dicted.

After this “slow-rolling dump­ster fire” of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said Ben Shapiro in Na­tion­al­Re­view.com, there still isn’t “a sin­gle shred of ev­i­dence” im­pli­cat­ing the pres­i­dent. Should Mueller’s re­port ever see the light of day, it’s bound to be­come “a po­lit­i­cal Rorschach test.” Democrats will pounce on “an­cil­lary crimes” such as ly­ing to the FBI, while Repub­li­cans will in­sist it’s “an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in search of a crime.” The re­port is un­likely to change many minds, and the fight over Mueller’s find­ings is bound to get “a hell of a lot uglier.”

Flynn: ‘Sub­stan­tial as­sis­tance’

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