WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case, an indication that Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating such a deal.
Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is examining whether anyone around Trump was involved in Russian efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
That agreement has been terminated, the four people said. Defense lawyers frequently share information during investigations, but they must stop when doing so would pose a conflict of interest. It is unethical for lawyers to work together when one client is cooperating with prosecutors and another is still under investigation.
The notification alone does not prove that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller. Some lawyers withdraw from information-sharing arrangements as soon as they begin negotiating with prosecutors. And such negotiations sometimes fall apart.
Still, the notification led Trump’s lawyers to believe that Flynn — who, along with his son, is seen as having significant criminal exposure — has, at the least, begun discussions with Mueller about cooperating.
Lawyers for Flynn and Trump declined to comment. The four people briefed on the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
A deal with Flynn would give Mueller a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump campaign and the early tumultuous weeks of the administration. Flynn was an early and important adviser to Trump, an architect of Trump’s populist “America first” platform and an advocate of closer ties with Russia.
His ties to Russia predated the campaign — he sat with President Vladimir Putin at a 2015 event in Moscow — and he was a point person on the transition team for dealing with Russia.
Among the interactions that Mueller is investigating is a private meeting that Flynn had with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, during the presidential transition. In the past year, it has been revealed that the Trump campaign repeatedly tried to meet with Russian officials who were promising compromising information on Clinton.
Flynn is regarded as loyal to Trump, but he has in recent weeks expressed serious concerns to friends that prosecutors will bring charges against his son, Michael Flynn Jr., who served as his father’s chief of staff and was a part of several financial deals involving the elder Flynn that Mueller is scrutinizing.
The White House has said that neither Flynn nor other former aides has incriminating information to provide about Trump. “He likes Gen. Flynn personally, but understands that they have their own path with the special counsel,” a White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, said in an interview last month with The New York Times. “I think he would be sad for them, as a friend and a former colleague, if the process results in punishment or indictments. But to the extent that that happens, that’s beyond his control.”Mark Mazzetti, Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman contributed reporting.