Last December, Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Trump, pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States while he was working for Trump’s transition team. He’s since been cooperating with the special counsel’s office. A lot. On Tuesday night, Robert Mueller’s team filed a memo recommending that Flynn serve no prison time because of how helpful he was to the probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, in addition to two other investigations. In total, Flynn met with investigators a whopping 19 times. “The defendant’s assistance to the government was substantial and merits consideration at sentencing,” the memo says. “His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation.”
The rest of the memo is heavily redacted, but it does note that Flynn helped flesh out “a range of issues, including interactions between individuals in the Presidential Transition Team and Russia.” This probably isn’t good news for the “individuals” on the transition team that were in touch with Russia. As Tim O’Brien points out for Bloomberg, Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador, Sergeu Kislyak, and other Russian figures on multiple occasions in December 2016, and reportedly discussed setting up a backchannel to the Kremlin. Kushner and the White House have claimed there was nothing untoward about any of these interactions, but it’s possible, if not likely, that Flynn has provided evidence to the contrary. “If Flynn offered federal authorities a different version of events than Kushner — and Flynn’s version is buttressed by documentation or federal electronic surveillance of the former general — then the president’s son-in-law may have to start scrambling,” writes O’Brien.
Notably absent from the memo are any details about the extent to which Trump may have known about Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador. Trump has denied he instructed Flynn to tell Russia he planned to ease up economic sanctions once he took office, but it’s highly unlikely Flynn did so on his own volition. When acting attorney general Sally Yates informed the White House that Flynn lied to investigators about these discussions, thus exposing himself to blackmail, Trump did nothing. It was only a few weeks later, after the Washington Post revealed that Flynn had lied, that Flynn resigned. Something doesn’t add up, and the answer could very well lie beneath the black bars that cover most of the memo, including the entirety of the sections detailing the two other investigations to which Flynn offered assistance.
One big takeaway from tonight's court filing — Michael Flynn is apparently helping the government with an investigation entirely separate from the Russia case. The details are totally redacted. pic.twitter.com/Q2rOasNrsY
— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) December 5, 2018
The amount of redacted material could be serious cause for concern. It signals that Mueller may know far more than the public, or Trump, can imagine. This makes it risky for other subjects of the probe, or Trump, to attempt to deceive investigators about the campaign or the transition team’s relationship to Russia. At this point, it may not even matter. Mueller seems to have amassed a substantial amount of evidence, and he doesn’t appear to be very worried about Matthew Whitaker, the Trump-friendly interim attorney general, hamstringing the investigation to the point that he can’t wrap it up as he sees fit.
The recommendation of no jail time for Flynn, apart from its obvious irony for the man who led chants of “lock her up,” reflects both the timeliness and significance of his help. That most of the details are redacted signals he has given far more than we or the President may know
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 5, 2018
Trump has likely been told by his legal team not to tweet about the memo, but Rudy Giuliani seemed to approximate the president’s train of thought in a text message to Politico. “Wow big crime for a SPECIAL WHATEVER maybe a group of Angry Bitter Hillary Supporters who are justifying themselves by the goal justifies the means….Over the top In ethical behavior,” wrote the president’s legal counsel. Around the same time the memo was filed, Giuliani, who once advised the president on cybersecurity, accused Twitter of implanting an anti-Trump message in one of his tweets about the Mueller investigation. In reality, Giuliani made a typo that rendered a .in hyperlink, which someone bought and redirected to a site called Trump a traitor. This, it’s worth repeating, is the man directing Trump’s legal strategy regarding the Mueller investigation.
Rudy Giuliani via text to @politico on tonight’s Flynn filing: “Wow big crime for a SPECIAL WHATEVER maybe a group of Angry Bitter Hillary Supporters who are justifying themselves by the goal justifies the means….Over the top In ethical behavior.” pic.twitter.com/5fZhFCNTVV
— Darren Samuelsohn (@dsamuelsohn) December 5, 2018
The memo detailing how generous Flynn was in his cooperation with the special counsel’s office is only the latest development in an investigation which feels like it may be drawing to a close. In recent weeks, speculation has intensified as to former Trump adviser Roger Stone, conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and, potentially, the Trump campaign’s relationship to WikiLeaks, which released Democratic emails hacked by Russia prior to the 2016 election. At the same time, additional charges were filed against former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Cohen pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about negotiations surrounding a potential Trump Tower in Moscow, and Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying to investigators about…well, it’s not totally clear. The public should know more on Friday, though, when the special counsel’s office is scheduled to file similar sentencing memos for both Cohen and Manafort. Strap in.