x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Flynn's deep cooperation with prosecutors may spare him jail time 

The former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel's Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn't do any prison time

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn departs US District Court, in Washington. Reuters 
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn departs US District Court, in Washington. Reuters 

Michael Flynn, President’s Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, is assisting prosecutors with three separate investigations – including a previously undisclosed probe - according to court documents that reveal the depth of his co-operation.

Such is the extent of his assistance that a sentencing memo submitted by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, on Tuesday recommend that he serve no prison time.

He is due to be sentenced in two weeks time. Last year he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US.

The memo had been the subject of huge anticipation as Trump watchers hoped to learn exactly what the retired general had told investigators. In the event, details of the third probe are entirely redacted and prosecutors wrote that they could not reveal more about “ongoing investigations."

Supporters of Mr Trump insisted the filing revealed no new details of ties between his campaign and Moscow, but Democrats said the existence of an additional investigation showed that prosecutors still had more to reveal.

Mark Meadows, a Republican Congressman for North Carolina, said it was good news for Mr Trump.

“Let’s look at what is not in there,” he told Fox News. “There is no suggestion that Michael Flynn had anything to do with collusion.”

Even so, the extent of Mr Flynn’s co-operation is certain to cast a further shadow over the White House. The filing said he sat for 19 interviews with Mr Mueller’s team and other prosecutors, and passed on documents and communications.

“The defendant’s assistance to the government was substantial and merits consideration at sentencing,” the memo says. “His early co-operation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and first-hand insight regarding events and issues under investigation.”

It says he helped Mr Mueller’s probe, a criminal investigation and a third inquiry, prompting immediate speculation of a secret intelligence investigation.

The filing suggests Mr Flynn has made good on his promise to “set things right”, made after resigning from the White House after only 24 days.

He was forced out when it emerged he had misled Mike Pence, the vice-president, about the extent of his communications with Russian officials.

The sentencing memo also criticises Mr Flynn for work he did on behalf of the Turkish government while he was working for the Trump campaign.

It singled out an op-ed piece published on election day that called for the deportation of Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish a cleric living in the United States blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. Mr Flynn failed to register with the US government that he was working for the Turkish government until after he had left the White House.

“The defendant’s false statements impeded the ability of the public to learn about the Republic of Turkey’s efforts to influence public opinion about the failed coup, including its efforts to effectuate the removal of a person legally residing in the United States,” it said.

Mr Flynn is one of five Trump associates to have pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. Others, such as Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair, and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser, have run into trouble with prosecutors who say they have not co-operated fully.

In contrast with their sometimes very public activities, Mr Flynn has rarely appeared in the media or at campaign events, and avoided criticising the Mueller probe despite widespread encouragement from his supporters to go on the offensive.

Mr Mueller’s team credited him for his 33 years in the US Army and record of public service but said he should have known better than to try to deceive investigators.

“The defendant's extensive government service should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false information to the government, as well as the rules governing work performed on behalf of a foreign government,” they wrote.

Trump supporters claimed the sentencing memo revealed no smoking gun or evidence of collusion with Moscow.

Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s attorney dismissed the Mueller team as “overzealous media-inspired prosecutors”.

“They are sick puppies," he told Fox News. "This whole thing started as an orchestrated attempt to take the president out of office as an insurance policy.”

Adam Schiff, who leads Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter: “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.”

Mr Flynn gave a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention during which he lambasted Hillary Clinton over allegations that she mishandled classified emails. “If I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail,” he said.

More insight into the state of Mr Mueller’s investigation is due soon. His team is expected to publish sentencing memos about Mr Manafort and Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former lawyer, in the coming days.