Lock him up! Special Counsel Robert Mueller is recommending that President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, face prison time for lying about his interactions with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the tail end of the Obama administration.
Flynn has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak in late December 2016, in which Flynn urged Russia not to escalate after Obama hit Putin’s regime with sanctions and diplomatic expulsions for its election interference.
Flynn has asked the court for leniency, arguing he should be spared prison time, both because he’s cooperated with the Mueller probe and because the FBI did not warn him, at the time of his untruthful interview, that lying to federal agents was a crime.
The Mueller sentencing memo is unvarnished: “A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents,” it reads. “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth.”
The memo argues that Flynn was already committed to his lie by the time the FBI spoke to him, observing that Flynn had previously chosen to “make false statements about his communications with the Russian ambassador… when he lied about that topic to the media, the incoming Vice President, and other members of the Presidential Transition Team.”
The memo also reveals that the FBI had confirmed to Flynn, in advance, that the questions would concern “his contact with the Russian Ambassador to the United States.”
Elsewhere the memo argues that Flynn’s behavior would likely not have changed even if he’d been warned upfront or interviewed with counsel present. Flynn is also guilty of lying on Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) disclosures. “The defendant made those false statements while represented by counsel and after receiving an explicit warning that providing false information was a federal offense,” the memo reveals.
In short, the Mueller team argues: “Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI on January 24…. The Court should reject the defendant’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI.”
The memo’s supporting attachments include colorful notes from the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn. They found him “relaxed and jocular” and insistent on giving them a tour of the West Wing where President Trump was supervising the placement of artwork. FBI agent Peter Szrok, since fired in his own scandal, found Flynn “bright but not profoundly sophisticated.”
The Mueller memo concludes that Flynn should not be let off the hook entirely, but that “his cooperation and military service continue to justify a sentence at the low end of the guideline range.”