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Why Michael Flynn’s Confession Plea Deal Is A Problem For The White House

December 2, 2017

What with the problems running the country, the misogyny and keeping the Russian mistress happy, Trump seems to have been very busy lately; however, his sleepless nights may have more to do with problems closer to home. Michael Flynn’s recent guilty plea makes for an interesting bedtime story. Remember how Jeff Sessions happily lost his memory when testifying about his Russian ties? Seems as if Flynn’s attempt at memory loss came with an attached board book, and it made for a plea bargain that is sweet for Mueller and sour for Trump’s associates. Since Flynn was a former White House advisor, and since he admitted to having close ties to Russia, being charged with multiple felony counts and pleading only to one, the skeletons Flynn is hiding are sure to cause some problems for people like Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump.

In addition, the details of Flynn’s guilty plea raise new questions about how much others in the White House — including possibly President Trump himself — knew about the retired general’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the United States, during the presidential transition.

In a statement read in federal court, Brandon L. Van Grack, an assistant prosecutor on Mueller’s staff, said that in the case of the two conversations at issue, Flynn spoke to Kislyak only after receiving specific instructions from, in one instance, a “senior official” of Trump’s transition team and, in another instance, a “very senior member” of the transition team. Neither official was named. But it has been publicly reported that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a key adviser, was recently questioned by Mueller’s prosecutors and CNN reported Friday that he was the “very senior” transition official in question.

According to various news sources, the BBC, the AP and CNBC, as of last week, before the plea deal was reached, Michael Flynn’s lawyers were reported to have stopped cooperating with White House counsel, and while this may seem like an inordinately smart move overall (as in, what right mind would cooperate with legal counsel backing Trump?), it’s a tell that the Mueller investigation is moving toward charging a current White House staff member. Most attorneys cooperate when their clients are being investigated, but when one is no longer being investigated, because he has already agreed to a plea deal, and the other client is still being investigated, “sharing” between attorneys closes down.

A NYT op ed focuses on the charges the Mueller investigation chose to set aside in favor of Flynn’s “cooperation” and makes a damning case for arguing that the only reason to set aside easily proven charges is to make room for the accused to provide information in exchange for a more lenient sentence:

On Friday morning, Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. while serving as President Trump’s national security adviser. Making a false statement to a federal official is a felony offense, but nowhere near as bad as what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, could likely have charged Mr. Flynn with, including charges for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (similar to those brought against the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates) or those stemming from a possible attempt to kidnap a Turkish cleric in Pennsylvania. By pleading guilty and agree to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, Mr. Flynn also appears to have averted prosecution of his son, who was reportedly implicated in some of the misconduct.

Prosecutors generally offer favorable plea bargains like this one only when the cooperating defendant can provide evidence that incriminates someone “up the ladder” — someone more senior than the defendant himself. In our experience, that is particularly true when the prosecutor is deciding not to pursue other, readily provable charges, like those that seem to exist here.

Maybe Flynn’s tipping point was his son, because it clearly wasn’t about protecting POTUS. Maybe Mueller was able to push Flynn to testify in exchange for not charging Flynn’s son with multiple felonies.

Seems that Mueller has his sights set on Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and who knows, maybe that will be Trump’s achilles, too. The same NYT article points out that the pattern of pushing through the family may be the best method to secure convictions:

It is probably Mr. Kushner who is in greatest jeopardy now. Bloomberg has reported that he is the very senior transition member who directed Mr. Flynn to reach out to Russia. Mr. Kushner has already been questioned by the special counsel and by Congress. If he was one of those officials Mr. Flynn spoke to and he was not honest about it when questioned, he could face similar false statement charges.

Mr. Kushner also failed to disclose approximately 100 foreign contacts on his security clearance application; each omission is a potential false statement.

If Flynn is willing to testify in exchange for protecting his son, what would Trump do? For his son-in-law, Kushner, not much, but what about good ole Donald Jr? Donald Jr. had clandestine meetings with Russian officials that he misidentified.

Donald Trump Jr.’s exposure is also deepened by the Flynn plea, along similar lines as Mr. Kushner. He might (or might not) be one of the unnamed transition participants Mr. Flynn identified. Moreover, the president’s son has been interviewed at length as a part of congressional investigations, and Mr. Flynn’s testimony could show he was not candid. Because of Mr. Flynn’s role on the campaign as a trusted member of the inner circle, he may also have a great deal to say about topics like Mr. Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with several Russians, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner, or about the Trump scion’s contacts with WikiLeaks. If Mr. Flynn’s recollection is not the same as what Trump the Younger told Congress, Don Jr. is in serious trouble.

So, that is an op-ed discussion of why Trump Jr. is in trouble, but what is damning for Trump Jr. is the email chain linking him to Russian operatives offering to “help” with Trump’s Presidential campaign.

Here is a sample of one of the email messages sent to Donald Jr.:

On Jun 3, 2016, at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly? I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Best

Rob Goldstone

That email is published by the Washington Post, and if you click on the link above, you will find a detailed exchange between Donald Jr. and Russian government operatives who offer to help in the campaign by providing information on Clinton. Donald Jr. must have been hoping those emails were gone. Guess nothing is gone now with the iPhone. And, as far as Donald Jr.’s statement that he never met with the Russians knowingly? Well, again that iPhone makes it all happen:

On Jun 7, 2016, at 4:20 PM, Rob Goldstone  wrote:

Don

Hope all is well

Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.

I believe you are aware of the meeting – and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you?

I assume it would be at your office.

Best

Rob Goldstone

[In case you wondered if he knew about the meeting…]

On Jun 7, 2016, at 5:16 PM, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

How about 3 at our offices? Thanks rob appreciate you helping set it up.

D

On Jun 7, 2016, at 18:14, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.

One might wonder what other light Flynn could shed on the Russia investigation when the emails of Trump Jr. are fodder enough for flames. Manafort charged, Kushner investigated, and now Donald Jr.? Seems to be following a pattern.

There are a few more exchanges about changing the meeting times, and then the final note is implicating:

From: Donald Trump Jr.

Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2016 12:03 p.m

To: Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort

Subject: FW: Russia — Clinton – private and confidential

Meeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices.

Best,

Don

 

 

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