Politics

Flynn’s cooperation with special counsel ‘substantial’ and ‘valuable’

Michael Flynn.
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
Michael Flynn.

WASHINGTON — Michael T. Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, helped substantially with the special counsel’s investigation and should receive little to no prison time for lying to federal investigators, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, described Flynn as a key cooperator who helped the Justice Department with several investigations, sitting for 19 interviews with Mueller’s office and other prosecutors and handing over documents and communications.

“His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight” into the subject of Mueller’s investigation — Russia’s election interference and whether any Trump associates conspired, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing recommendation memorandum and an addendum that was heavily blacked out.

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In particular, they wrote, he may have prompted others to cooperate with the inquiry. “The defendant’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming,” prosecutors said.

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They also indicated that Flynn helped with other investigations without revealing details about them.

Flynn, who served briefly as the president’s national security adviser, is the only White House aide and the first person from the president’s inner circle to strike a cooperation deal with the special counsel’s office in exchange for a more lenient penalty. He pleaded guilty a year ago to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey Kislyak.

“The defendant deserves credit for accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government,” prosecutors wrote.

The cases of some other former Trump aides caught up in the special counsel investigation are also nearing resolution, marking an active week for Mueller’s inquiry. By Friday, Mueller’s prosecutors are due to enumerate how they believe Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, violated a plea agreement and separately to outline the extent of cooperation by Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer.

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Another longtime Trump associate whom Mueller is scrutinizing, Roger Stone, said Tuesday that he had invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in response to a request from Democratic investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hand over documents and testimony relevant to their own Russia inquiry. Stone’s lawyer, Grant J. Smith, said the committee’s request was “overbroad” and stressed that Stone was “an innocent citizen who denounces secrecy.”

The letter was dated Monday, the same day that Trump praised Stone on Twitter for having the “guts” to stand up to Mueller. Stone’s lawyer said that the letter was sent before Trump’s tweet.

A grand jury in Washington has investigated whether Stone had any advance knowledge of how WikiLeaks planned to use documents stolen from Democratic computers by Russian agents during the presidential campaign.

Prosecutors said Flynn’s more than 33 years of military service — he was a three-star Army general before being fired as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 — should be taken into account when Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia sentences him Dec. 18. But they also noted Flynn should have known better than to lie to the FBI. “Senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards,” they wrote.

Close observers of Mueller’s investigation had hoped his team might provide revealing details about possible cooperation between Trump associates and Russia, but in typical fashion, the special counsel’s office kept its cards closely held.

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Flynn, who gained notoriety after he left the military for his view of Islamic terrorism as an existential threat to the United States, began advising the Trump campaign in early 2016. About a week after his surprise election victory, Trump named Flynn as his future national security adviser.

During the presidential transition, Flynn discussed with Kislyak a coming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements. At the time, the Obama administration was preparing to allow a Security Council vote on the matter.

The two men also spoke about sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Russia over its election interference in December 2016. Flynn asked that Moscow refrain from escalating the situation, and Kislyak said Russia “had chosen to moderate its response.”

Just days after the inauguration, Flynn was interviewed by the FBI as part of the investigation into Russia’s influence campaign in the 2016 election. During the interview, Flynn lied to agents, a crime that carries up to five years in prison. At the time, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, warned the White House that Flynn might be compromised by the Russians.

Why Flynn chose to lie about his and Kislyak’s discussions remains a mystery to the FBI officials who investigated the case. Before investigators interviewed Flynn at the White House, he had indicated to a senior FBI official that he knew the United States had been listening to Kislyak’s calls, former law enforcement officials said.

Mueller’s prosecutors gave no indication about why he lied. Flynn’s own memo to seek a light sentence in the case is due by Dec. 11.

Flynn served just 24 days as national security adviser, forced to resign as the White House cited his failure to be forthcoming with Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak.

Flynn has largely remained out of media headlines since taking the plea deal a year ago. And Trump has said little about him since, even as he lashed out at other former aides who agreed to cooperate with investigators in exchange for lighter punishments.

After being fired by former President Barack Obama in 2014 after repeated clashes with other administration officials about his job performance, Flynn went on to form his own consulting company.

Among his clients was Turkey, which paid him more than a half-million dollars to target Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey believes that Gulen and his supporters were behind a failed coup attempt in 2016 and has repeatedly demanded the United States extradite Gulen, who fled Turkey 1999.

On Election Day in 2016, Flynn published an op-ed article in The Hill, a newspaper serving Congress, calling Gulen “a shady Islamic mullah” and a “radical Islamist.”

Prosecutors did not charge Flynn with crimes related to his work on behalf of the Turkish government. But in documents, they have made clear that they have evidence that Flynn “made materially false statements and omissions” in his federal filings about that lobbying work.

They admonished Flynn in Tuesday’s memo for concealing his work for Turkey, saying it kept the public in the dark about the extent of its efforts to influence public opinion about the failed coup.