Robert Mueller’s probe has netted yet another conviction, according to a statement released to media sources a few minutes ago from the special counsel’s media relations office. Michael Flynn will appear at 10:30 this morning in a plea hearing to answer one charge of lying to FBI investigators, a violation of 18 USC 1001. Presumably Flynn has agreed to plead out on this one charge, involving statements regarding his contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
Specifically, the charge states that Flynn lied when he denied asking Kislyak to keep Russia from escalating its response to Barack Obama’s diplomatic sanctions in late December 2016. That’s a potent admission, if Flynn has decided to make it. The outgoing Obama administration accused Donald Trump’s transition team of tampering with its management of foreign policy at the time, and the Trump team denied that they had done any such thing.
The denial is the issue here. Flynn’s actions with Kislyak would have been a violation of the Logan Act, but no one has ever been successfully prosecuted under that law. However, lots of people get prosecuted for lying to federal investigators, and for good reason. Why lie? It could be that Flynn got out over his own ski tips and decided to fly solo — or that he was told to do it, and wanted to cover that up. If Mueller’s cutting a deal with Flynn, which way do you want to bet this goes?
And the Mueller team says it’s definitely a guilty plea:
FLASH: MICHAEL FLYNN TO PLEAD GUILTY TODAY IN MUELLER CASE, OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL SAYS.
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) December 1, 2017
Interestingly, Mueller hasn’t charged Flynn with violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), despite what appeared to be grounds for such charges. That’s also rarely prosecuted, but Mueller showed no hesitation in charging Paul Manafort and Rick Gates under FARA when he was throwing the kitchen sink at them. Flynn’s FARA issues related more to Turkey, though, and it looks like Mueller decided to stick with Russia-related issues for this plea deal, just as he did with George Papadopoulos.
The disparity between the Manafort indictment and Flynn’s plea deal tells us at least that Flynn’s cooperating with Mueller. It also tells us that Flynn had something to hide during the transition, and whatever it is has enough value for Mueller to cut a deal with Flynn. That seems like bad news for the White House, or at the very least a reminder of their incompetence at assembling their national security team after the election.
Update: This is what should be making the White House nervous:
Stands to reason this isn't last shoe to drop in Russia probe. There was other stuff they could have charged Flynn with and he's choosing to plead. So, that begs the question, what does Mueller's team have on someone higher than the national security adviser? And who is that?
— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNPR) December 1, 2017
Update: Judge Andrew Napolitano points out that Flynn could have faced a 60-year sentence if he fought Mueller and got the kitchen sink treatment. Instead, he’s facing a 6-12 month sentence for the 18 USC 1001 violation. That doesn’t come for free, Napolitano tells Fox News:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 1, 2017
As I said on Twitter earlier, I may not be able to make it through a calculus course, but I can add.