Has Michael Flynn decided to cut a deal with Robert Mueller? Throughout the special counsel probe, attorneys for Flynn and President Donald Trump had shared information regarding the investigation, but the New York Times reports that their cooperation has suddenly ended. The disconnect appears to signal that Flynn and his attorneys have begun cooperating with Mueller’s prosecutors, although that could mean a number of things:
Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President 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 Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal.
Mr. Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining whether anyone around Mr. 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.
Does that mean Flynn has flipped on Trump? That’s one possibility, but it’s not the only one. CBS also covered the story this morning, despite not having much more information on what it means. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow tried to douse the speculation by telling CBS that whatever arrangements Flynn might be making have nothing to do with the president:
It is common for defense lawyers to share investigation information, but this practice becomes unethical once a conflict of interest presents itself.
While this change in communications does not prove that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller’s prosecution, it has led the White House legal team to believe that Flynn has now at least begun working with the investigation. However, CBS News confirmed that Mr. Trump’s personal legal team does not consider this development necessarily harmful or threatening to the president.
“It is probably a plea deal,” Jay Sekulow told CBS News. “That is the assumption. And if it is a plea that doesn’t necessarily mean it has anything to do with the president. The Manafort indictment didn’t have anything to do with the campaign or Trump.”
Does this add up to a flip? Let’s tackle the reasons for skepticism first. Mueller reportedly has also targeted Flynn’s son in his investigation, and significant indicators have already emerged that Flynn has legal vulnerabilities in regards to his work for Turkey without registering as a foreign agent. Flynn may just be cooperating in his own probe to take some of the heat off of his son. The issues that have arisen with Flynn have little to do with alleged Russian interference in the election, and little to do with Trump directly except in terms of judgment in appointing Flynn as national security adviser. Mueller might just be running out a ground ball with Flynn, and Flynn might just have decided to expedite the process to get to the inevitable indictment, especially after seeing the bomb Mueller dropped on Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
On the other hand, the two legal teams had been cooperating for months, presumably to coordinate defense strategies on common areas. Why bother to do that if Flynn’s issues have nothing to do with Trump? Flynn had an insider view of the campaign, too, which could prove valuable to Mueller if there was any collusion with Russian intelligence to be found. No evidence of that has yet emerged even after months of investigation by the DoJ, Mueller, and Congress — but if it did happen, Flynn could have played a significant role in it. Mueller really doesn’t need to cut plea deals with Flynn, so Flynn would have to bring something to the table.
The Manafort indictment turned out to be a disappointment for those arguing that criminal collusion with Russian intelligence took place. That may be the case with Flynn too, but it’s still far too early to assume that. Sekulow’s optimism isn’t founded on anything more than hopeful speculation, and until an indictment and/or a plea deal emerges, there’s not much else for the rest of us to go on.