Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate crimes associated with Russia’s role in the 2016 election, speaks softly but carries a big stick. On Friday, he quietly charged one of the biggest players in the saga, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn, with one count of lying to the FBI about his dealings with Sergey Kislyak, the former Russian ambassador. And in his subtle, devastating fashion, he presented the incriminating facts against the retired lieutenant general as a double negative.
Flynn, according to his charging document, falsely stated that:
• he “did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States … to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day.” (He did ask him.)
• he “did not recall the Russian ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.” (He did recall.)
• a week earlier he didn’t ask Kislyak “to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution,” or otherwise never learned from the ubiquitous ambassador what “Russia’s response to his request” was. (He did ask him and he did learn about Russia’s response.)
Because these are all lies, this means Flynn did do all those things and deceived investigators about them. That’s several lies, but Mueller only chose to charge him once. And this wasn’t part of an indictment, but rather a criminal information — which means Flynn, through his lawyers, is waiving his right to being prosecuted through the grand jury process. And yes, he’s expected to plead guilty and face a sentence of some sort, depending on his level of cooperation.
Like the George Papadopoulos case, Mueller’s office later on Friday made available Flynn’s plea agreement and a document laying out in greater detail how exactly Flynn lied to the FBI. In the latter, Flynn is described has having discussions with a “senior official,” “senior members,” and a “very senior member” of the Trump transition about his discussions with Russia. Bloomberg is reporting that the official in questions was Jared Kushner. If that’s the case, he has reason to be very worried.
But haven’t we learned for months that Mueller and his skilled team of prosecutors have been presenting a wealth of Russia-related evidence to a grand jury in Washington? What about Flynn’s failure to register as a foreign agent of Turkey, from which he received handsome payments? Or the reported plot to whisk away Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric living a quiet life in Pennsylvania, to the tune of several million dollars? Shouldn’t he get pinned for conspiracy and other greater sins, some of which may have been committed while he was already privy to the nation’s biggest secrets?
Just as Flynn was pleading guilty in federal court on Friday, ABC News reported that he is ready to testify that Trump explicitly “directed him to make contact with the Russians.” If true, Flynn is rolling over big time, unafraid to sing to protect his own interests and those of his family — not Trump’s.
Make no mistake: Mueller already has dirt on all of this, and likely much more that the public may never learn. That he’s choosing to charge Flynn for only one count of lying to the Feds is proof that not only has he flipped his target, but that the target is also cooperating with an investigation that’s after an even bigger fish — despite insistence by the biggest fish of them all that this is all a witch hunt. But Mueller is only getting started. And the fact that he charged Flynn for misdeeds that occurred before the special counsel was even appointed is proof of his genius — that is, he’s showing the president’s apologists that he’s not some political hack on a fishing expedition for made-up charges concocted after he was assigned to the case. The best, or worst, is yet to come for the Trump administration.