What Michael Flynn Knows Could Incriminate Trump’s Inner Circle
A breakdown of Mueller’s strategy and what Flynn could reveal if he turns on Trump
Updated December 1st, 12:35 pm ET
“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.” — Robert Kelner, Michael Flynn’s Attorney, in March 2017
Much like a competent investigator honing in on John Gotti, Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to methodically move forward with a strategy straight out of a mobster’s worst nightmare. Strategically levying charges on lower-level made men, then flipping them to catch bigger fish within the organization is mafia prosecution 101. Now, it’s a tactic being executed in one of the most consequential investigations in history…an investigation that inches closer to the President of the United States with every passing day.
Robert Mueller and his team have been on a mission. With his investigation including Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s potential complicity in this interference, Mueller has had his work cut out for him. At least 12 Trump associates have had contacts with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign and transition, including 19 face-to-face meetings and 51 communications. There was a lot to sift through on the potential collusion side of the investigation. So, Mueller started out with the more easily provable offenses. Money laundering, acting as an unregistered agent, and lying to investigators.
Mueller’s first round of indictments included former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates, and Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos. These charges sent a clear signal to President Trump and his associates that this was only the beginning.
Given the fact President Trump’s former National Security Adviser (APNSA) Michael Flynn participated in similar behavior that was detailed in the charges presented (lobbying as an unregistered foreign agent, lying to the FBI), he became the subject of a lot of speculation. Was Flynn next in line to be indicted? Was he already cooperating with Mueller? Were talks of cooperation ongoing behind the scenes? After recent reports of Mueller ramping up pressure on Flynn and his son Flynn Jr. for their Turkish lobbying, the speculation culminated in major news on Thanksgiving.
The New York Times and The Washington Post reported details that signaled a potentially monumental development. Robert Kelner, Michael Flynn’s lawyer, called up Trump’s attorney John Dowd this week to let him know that the information-sharing agreement between the White House and Flynn’s legal representation had to end. Discussing the Special Counsel’s investigation was no longer authorized. This is a move experts say is typically made when there is a conflict of interest between a subject of an investigation and the entity they’re sharing info with. White House lawyers believe this is a signal that Michael Flynn is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
These reports sparked speculation that Michael Flynn may be about to flip on Donald Trump or other higher-level associates and cooperate with Robert Mueller…as we saw on December 1st, that speculation was proven correct. Mueller has charged Michael Flynn with lying to the FBI and Flynn is plead guilty, and is now in full cooperation with Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Flynn signed his cooperating agreement *yesterday.* He agrees to cooperate "completely" with Mueller and turn over "all evidence of crimes" he knows about.
And we also got this bombshell: Flynn has reportedly agreed to testify against Donald Trump and his family, including a claim that Trump during the transition directed him to make contact with the Russians.
Like Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner said in March of this year while Flynn was pursuing a soon to be denied request for ‘immunity’ from congressional investigators, “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”
Do the circumstances permit? What story would Flynn tell? What members of Trump’s family would be involved? Will the story end like John Gotti’s?
In order to get the full picture, you’ll need to understand Robert Mueller’s strategy, what Flynn may be guilty of, and most importantly why Flynn is so crucial to this investigation.
Let’s dive in.
The Road To Flipping Michael Flynn
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are not new to this. The Special Counsel’s office consists of more than three dozen investigators, staffers, and attorneys. These experts include his former partner James Quarles (was an assistant Watergate prosecutor), Andrew Weissman (head of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud unit), and Michael Dreeben (deputy solicitor general) to name a few. Mueller has also reportedly teamed up with the IRS’ Criminal Investigations unit, which has 2,500 agents who focus on financial crimes like tax evasion and money laundering. This unit has already handed over records related to Paul Manafort (now indicted) and Michael Flynn.
Mueller knows Michael Flynn was a key player in the campaign and transition given his role as APNSA and how close of friends he became with Donald Trump. Flynn’s contacts with Russian operatives also made him an early subject of the Trump-Russia investigation, which former FBI Director James Comey started in July of 2016.
Flynn came on board as candidate Trump’s APNSA in early 2016. He advised Trump throughout the campaign and went on to be Trump’s APNSA in the White House. After just 24 days on the job, Flynn was forced to resign from his position after he was caught lying about the December 2016 phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kisylak where he discussed easing sanctions on Russia. As we later found out, these weren’t his only contacts with Kislyak or his worst wrongdoing.
Mueller was well aware of Flynn’s activities and how valuable he would be to the investigation as a cooperating witness. Not only could he provide specific details about potential collusion between Russian operatives and Trump’s campaign, he could speak on Donald Trump’s motives and thoughts at the time given their close relationship (more on that later). And so, the road to flipping Michael Flynn began…
Step One: Prove The Investigation Is Moving Fast
The day before Halloween, Manafort and Gates were hit with a 31-page, 12-count indictment that included money laundering $18 million of the $75 million dollars they made acting as unregistered foreign agents while lobbying on behalf of the Government of Ukraine between 2006–2016 and making false statements to the Justice Department. Moreover, that same day, there was a guilty plea and indictment of campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos was pertaining to collusion. Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to the FBI in January of 2017 about his attempts to set up meetings between President Trump, his campaign, and the Russian Government in an effort to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
Step Two: Ramp Up Pressure On The Target Witness
Mueller made the first round of charges against Manafort and Gates and unveiled them along with the plea agreement with Papadopoulos, showing he’s already flipped someone from the campaign and isn’t about to let people slide for lying to the FBI. Michael Flynn knew he was in hot water because he indulged in similar acts that resulted in those indictments. Among other things, Flynn received undisclosed payments while lobbying for Turkey at the same time he was advising Trump and sitting in classified national security briefings as an unregistered foreign agent. Flynn also lied to the FBI several times. Here are some of his undisclosed payments:
- Flynn was paid $530,000 as part of a $600,000 contract to lobby for the Turkish government. He then continued to participate in classified briefings and influence Turkey-policy.
- Flynn was paid $11,250 by an American subsidiary of a Russian cyber-security firm called Kaspersky Lab in October of 2015.
- Flynn was paid more than $33,750 by Russia Today for attending their 10th anniversary gala in Moscow in December 2015.
- Flynn was paid $11,250 by Volga-Dnepr Airlines, a Russian cargo plane company, for speaking at an event in August 2015. He did not disclose this payment until his resignation as APNSA.
With this in mind, Flynn must’ve been on edge. NBC News reported that Robert Mueller already has enough evidence to charge Michael Flynn and confirmed that he has been putting added pressure on him. We later learned that Mueller is probing a December 2016 meeting between Flynn and Turkish officials where he may have been offered a deal to orchestrate the removal of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rival from the U.S. for upwards of $15 million.
Flynn Jr. is implicated in all of this due to his work on their family company Flynn Intel Group. It could be the dynamic that would lead to Flynn Sr. cooperating with Mueller to protect his son, given the fact he’s worried about his son’s legal exposure.
Step Three: Utilize Leverage And Close The Deal
This is the stage we may be at now. Mueller could be leveraging Flynn’s willingness to limit his son’s legal exposure when pushing for this deal. Flynn has reached a plea agreement where he has plead guilty to lying to the FBI. The fact that it was just this single charge indicated that Flynn offered information about someone up the ladder, and as I noted earlier, it includes Donald Trump.
This could be in exchange for a reduced sentence for himself or his son, but Mueller would only present this as an option if he believes Flynn is capable of providing information on other key subjects of the investigation. That could involve info bolstering Mueller’s case against Manafort and Gates, which is headed to trial or it could involve Flynn providing incriminating inside information on the campaign’s contacts with Russian operatives. But if a deal like this were to be offered, it’s likely information about people much higher up in the food chain.
Norm Eisen, President Barack Obama’s White House Ethics Czar, spoke on his experience with Mueller and asserted that the info from Flynn would have to involve players like Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, his son Donald Trump Jr., or Donald Trump himself in order for Mueller to pursue a deal.
I negotiated a cooperation deal for a target with Mueller's office when he was US Atty and lemme tell ya, he's not gonna give one to Flynn unless he implicates someone up the ladder. That means Kushner, Don Jr., or Big Daddy. They are all having indigestion tonight. https://t.co/8SNzelLuBp
So since it appears Flynn has flipped, what valuable info could he provide? What meetings and communications with Russian operatives was he involved in?
What Does Flynn Know?
Michael Flynn has seen a lot. As APNSA, he was exposed to the nations most classified secrets. As Donald Trump’s friend, he was exposed to some of Trump’s most private moments during the campaign. And while working on the campaign, Flynn was also front and center in some of the sketchiest behavior. From making overtures to Russian operatives to seeking Hillary Clinton’s lost emails, there’s quite a bit to cover…
Events Flynn Was Tangled In
- Flynn had multiple communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016 and lied about them to the FBI in 2017. Reportedly under direction from senior Trump transition officials, including Jared Kushner…Also, Pence ran the transition, so he must’ve been aware of this…
MORE from WAPO: Officials say Flynn spoke to Kislyak at clear direction of Trump officials at Mar-a-Lago https://t.co/QtwokEmLCD
New details about Flynn's calls with Kislyak could implicate top Trump transition officials, including Kushner, Bannon, Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway > https://t.co/tuS9KMXtNt
- Flynn attended a secret meeting in Trump Tower in December 2016 as a member of the Trump transition team with Jared Kushner and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Kushner asked to set up a back-channel line of communication between the Trump transition and Moscow.
- GOP operative Peter Smith sought Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails from who he thought were Russian hackers…And he was coordinating with Flynn and his company.
- In intercepted communications, Russian operatives bragged about cultivating a relationship with Flynn.
- The Trump transition team was told Michael Flynn may need to register as a foreign agent and it raised no alarms. President Trump and his administration knowingly allowed a foreign agent to participate in meetings where the United State’s most classified national security secrets were discussed. Flynn didn’t register as a foreign agent until 2017.
- On January 27, 2017, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen (previously Trump Organization Executive Vice President), who is also a subject of the Trump-Russia investigation, and Felix Sater (Trump’s Russian-born Mafia-linked business associate) met with Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko at a dinner in New York. The purpose of the dinner was an attempt to create a back-channel peace deal with Ukraine and Russia. A move many saw as a covert method to lift sanctions. Artemenko left the sealed plan with Cohen who was supposed to deliver it to Michael Flynn. Artemenko claims Flynn “got confirmation” from Sater that his plan was delivered to the White House. Artemenko confirmed the dinner took place and that the intention was to create this deal. Cohen confirmed the dinner took place but denies this was the content discussed. Because of this deal with Cohen and Sater, Artemenko has since been stripped of his citizenship and accused of treason…
Insights Flynn Could Provide
- Given his role as APNSA, he may have info on what motivated the Republican National Convention to change their stance on the Ukraine to a pro-Russia stance.
- Flynn may be able to provide information on exactly how many individuals in the campaign knew about Papadopoulos’ efforts to arrange a meeting between Putin and Trump.
- Flynn may be able to provide insight into whether or not Donald Trump was made aware of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian operatives in an attempt to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
- Flynn may be able to give insight into whether or not others in the campaign communicated with Wikileaks or if they were made aware of Donald Trump Jr.’s or Roger Stones’s communication with Wikileaks.
- Flynn may also be able to detail how much the campaign was involved in Carter Page’s trip to Moscow where he met with Russia’s oil company Rosneft.
- Flynn could provide evidence that Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner lied to investigators. That could pertain to the nature of their contacts with the Russians or other assertions they made to investigators during their testimonies. As we know, Mueller will not hesitate to charge someone for lying to investigators. Given Donald Trump Jr.’s false initial public statements about the nature of his meeting with Russian operatives and Jared Kushner’s habit of lying on his SF-86 disclosures, it’s not far-fetched to assume they may not have been entirely truthful in their congressional testimonies.
- And finally, Flynn could provide insight into Donald Trump’s thinking and motivations throughout the time he spent with him. Was he aware of Russia’s efforts to help prop up his campaign? Did he participate in any collusion?
Mueller may soon find out.
So, we just covered what Flynn could provide but what if Trump just decides to pardon him. Past behavior certainly indicated Trump’s willingness to protect Flynn (which given the news, it clearly had something to do with preventing Flynn from relaying what he knows).
After a scheduled counter-terrorism briefing in the Oval Office, President Trump asked everyone to leave (including Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner) so he could speak to Comey alone. Trump then asked Comey if he could end the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” — President Trump
This was the day after Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser after lying about his sanctions-related conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “prevent any future direct communication between the President” and himself. Sessions didn’t respond.
The Washington Post also reported that in March, “President Trump asked him (Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats) if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe.”
With this info, Trump has shown intent to protect Flynn, but can he do it. Legally, yes. The president has the power to pardon anyone from federal charges. When it comes to Paul Manafort though, this may get tricky. Mueller’s cooperation with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is an indication that Manafort may be charged with a state crime on top of his federal crimes. If that’s the case, Manafort can’t be pardoned since a president can’t pardon state-level crimes. If other Trump associates were to be implicated in state-level crimes, the same would apply to them.
But let’s say state charges aren’t applicable to Flynn and Trump is able to pardon Flynn, should he? Former federal prosecutor and candidate for Illinois Attorney General Renato Mariotti believes that a pardon of Flynn would further bolster Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice case, which is already pretty solid given Trump’s firing of James Comey.
@nytimes @Comey 10/ (One answer could be that a pardon of Flynn could be used by Mueller as evidence of Trump's "corrupt intent" to prove obstruction, because it could indicate Trump's strong desire to relieve Flynn of criminal liability. A Manafort pardon wouldn't impact an obstruction case.)
If the possibility of a presidential pardon were to be off the table, that could make Flynn, and other Trump associates, more likely to cooperate with investigators. If others cooperate, and enough evidence is presented against the president (who’s already been widely accused of money laundering for Russian oligarchs) what happens then?
When it comes to President Trump, as the law currently stands, the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled that a president can be charged while in office and Trump could very well pardon himself unless state crimes were found. So, in order for Trump to be removed from office, he’d have to either be impeached or the 25th Amendment would have to be invoked. So if enough evidence were to be found to charge Trump, the fate of the rule of law would then be in the hands of Republican Congressmen…