I suppose this is the next gift under the tree for the media as they continue to celebrate the Twelve Days of Mueller. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will be facing sentencing today and as part of that process, Mueller has released the sentencing memo detailing the lies Flynn supposedly told leading to his conviction. CNN is of the opinion that he’ll walk out with no jail time because of how “helpful” he’s been to the investigation. But what sort of lies are we talking about?
The Washington Times has some of the details from the mostly redacted memo and it’s not exactly a tale of treason and intrigue.
The January 2017 memo describes FBI agents’ conversation with Flynn about his contacts with Mr. Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Mr. Kislyak. He will be sentenced Tuesday.
Flynn repeatedly told the FBI agents, including former agent Peter Strzok, that he did not speak to Mr. Kislyak about U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia.
The memo says Flynn downplayed his interactions with Mr. Kislyak. He even told the agents that he had not sought to influence Russia on a United Nations Security Council Vote.
In the interview, Flynn deemphasized his interactions with Mr. Kislyak, offering bland descriptions of the conversations.
Flynn told the agents “not really” when asked if he told Mr. Kislyak not to escalate the diplomatic conflicts over sanctions with the U.S. In his guilty plea last year, Flynn admitted that he did, in fact, do so.
There have been enough leaks in this case all through the process to prepare us for these sorts of details, but it doesn’t make it any easier to digest. Running down the list, it appears that there are no charges stating that Flynn actually broke the law during his time on the job. In fact, most of what’s detailed in this memo sounds like a case of Flynn doing precisely the sort of things you’d expect a national security adviser to do. (Does it really sound shocking to anyone that Flynn would be talking to the Russian ambassador?)
Perhaps there’s more in the redacted portions which we may never learn of. But if not, this was a case of Flynn not being convicted of doing anything wrong, but of either lying or at least misleading investigators when he was asked about it. He was convicted of “downplaying his interactions” with Kislyak. He apparently testified that he’d only spoken to foreign officials to ask them “where they stood” on a particular UN vote, not to attempt to influence them. (If you think we don’t try to leverage our relationships with other nations to get them to vote our way in the UN, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.)
These are questions being asked by people such as Alan Dershowitz.
Lying to the FBI is only a crime if the lie was “material”. If the FBI already knew the answer to the question— if they have tapes— and ask it only to elicit a lie, should that lie be deemed material?
— Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) December 17, 2018
So in the end, Flynn was convicted of a crime which couldn’t have taken place had he not been called in to testify. It’s still technically illegal, but was that ever really worth going to jail for? In some ways, I kind of hope that Flynn winds up writing a book when all of this is over. Most of the tell-all books coming out from people in Trump’s orbit have been largely gossip and flash, but Michael Flynn might be someone with a story that’s actually worth hearing.