Russia Probe

Mueller Says Flynn's Been Cooperative with Russian Investigation, Asks for Light Sentence

Snitches get a slap on the wrist sometimes.


Michael Flynn
Carlos Barria/REUTERS/Newscom

Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, has provided so much assistance to the Department of Justice's investigations that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is recommending a light sentence for Flynn for lying to the FBI about his connections with Russia.

Flynn has previously pleaded guilty to concealing conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016 about responses to U.S. sanctions against Russia. He also concealed ties with the government of Turkey and its campaign to influence public opinion to lay the blame on a failed coup attempt there on cleric Fethullah Gulen. All of this was part of an attempt to extradite Gulen from the United States to Turkey.

According to a sentencing memo released last night from Mueller's office, Flynn has since been extremely cooperative with the federal government, participating in 19 separate interviews for multiple ongoing investigations. And because the investigations are ongoing, much of the explanation of the recommendation is redacted. But Flynn's cooperation is valuable enough that Mueller has recommended a sentence on the "low end of the guideline range"—including the possibility of no prison sentence at all. The recommended guideline range for a sentence for Flynn's crime is from zero to six months.

There will be a lot of overanalysis of what these memos mean (check out this almost comically absurd megaparsing of a sentence about holding senior government leaders to the "highest of standards," as though Mueller's using a sentencing memo to essentially subtweet Trump).

There are a couple of things worth noting in the redacted sections. First, a whole chunk of redacted text details Flynn's assistance in an investigation wholly unconnected to the attempt to determine the extent of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and whether anybody in Trump's campaign assisted. This criminal investigation does not appear to be part of Mueller's work. We don't know what it is because it's completely redacted, but it could be connected to Flynn's ties with Turkey and any potential investigation about their efforts to get at Gulen. Regardless, contextually, that section is very clearly not about the Russian investigation.

But in the section of the Russian investigation, there are parts also redacted that describe useful assistance on something that appears to be unconnected to the stuff about Flynn that we already know. There are several paragraphs blacked out about information that is above and beyond his conversations with the Russian ambassador that fateful December.

There's not a whole lot here, but then people shouldn't have been expecting a whole lot here, and perhaps people should not be either overly excited nor overly dismissive of the memo's contents. The real fireworks may be coming on Friday, though. That's when Mueller is expected to release some of the details as to the lies Paul Manafort has been accused of feeding the FBI even after he agreed to cooperate as part of a plea deal. The lies may be connected to the Russian investigation, but given the extent of the charges and tax fraud Manafort has been convicted of, it could be a completely unrelated matter.