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Mueller wants no prison time for Trump ex-NSA Flynn, cites ‘substantial’ assistance in probe

In a heavily redacted addendum to a court filing, the prosecutors listed the former NSA‘s assistance in several ongoing cases, including a criminal investigation of which the details were not provided

world Updated: Dec 05, 2018 23:36 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Trump,Russian election meddling probe,Robert Mueller
In this file photo taken on December 01, 2017 Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, leaves Federal Court in Washington, DC. - Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor in charge of the Russia election meddling probe, has recommended that Flynn face no jail time due to his cooperation with the investigation. (AFP File photo)(AFP)

The special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election has recommended that Michael T Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, be given no prison time, for his crime of lying to FBI agents, because of his cooperation and help he has provided in connection with several investigations.

“Given the defendant’s substantial assistance and other considerations,” prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller III wrote in a court filing Tuesday, “a sentence at the low end of the guideline range—including a sentence that does not impose a term of incarceration—is appropriate and warranted.”

In a heavily redacted addendum to the filing, the prosecutors listed his assistance in several ongoing cases, including a criminal investigation of which the details were not provided. And in the special counsel’s investigation of “any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals in the campaign of President Donald Trump”. In all, Flynn has sat for 19 interviews with various government agencies.

In seeking no prison term for the former NSA, the prosecutors also said his “early cooperation was particularly valuable” because he was one of few people who had “long-term and firsthand information” of the events under investigation and his decision to cooperate may have influenced the decisions of other firsthand witnesses to cooperate as well. Six guilty pleas, including Flynn’s, have been obtained so far by the special counsel’s office, which has also indicted 25 Russian nationals.

The special counsel’s office went on cite Flynn’s military service of 33 years to say it was both a “mitigating” and “aggravating” factor in his sentencing. His military career, it said, distinguished him from all others charged in this case so far but “senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards”.

Flynn is a former three-star general of US military, who was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Barack Obama over personnel issues. He began advising candidate Trump in early 2016 and his appointment as NSA was among the first personnel announcements by the president-elect.

Flynn was forced to resign in February, just after 24 days in office as in office, after it came to light that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with the Russian ambassador and related communications.

He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents about those Russian contacts, a crime that is punishable with 5 years in jail. He has since been cooperating with the special counsel’s office which has described it as “substantial”.

In court filings, Mueller’s prosecutors have focussed on Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador as a member of President Trump’s transition team. On December 22, he had sought Russia’s help to block a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, going against the Obama administration’s decision to let it pass. The Russians refused, and the resolution passed.

On December 29, Flynn had discussed with Ambassador Kislyak sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia, and had urged that Moscow needn’t escalate tensions by retaliating. The incoming administration would roll them back, he had assured them. And President Vladimir Putin had announced shortly after Russia would not be retaliating.

In both instances, Flynn has said senior members of the Trump transition team were in the loop and knew about his interactions and had, in fact, approved of them.

Flynn was also present at a meeting that the ambassador had with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a crucial member of the campaign and transition team, at Trump Tower in early December the same year.

The Tuesday filing did not live up to the excitement that preceded it in anticipation of new information, as many of the details were redacted and remained hidden from public view. But there are several more coming.

On Friday, for instance, Mueller’s prosecutors are expected to explain why they are rescinding a plea agreement with Paul Manafort, a one-time chair of the Trump campaign. He is said to have lied in breach of the agreement.

Also on Friday, prosecutors are expected to file a letter in connection with the sentencing of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer who has now turned against his boss. The paper could detail the extent of Cohen’s participation and information that he has shared with investigators under a plea deal.

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 23:36 IST