Lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have stopped talking to President Donald Trump’s legal team about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to reports Thursday. That could mean Flynn is working out a deal that could implicate a senior Trump official, say legal experts.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported Flynn’s lawyers have stopped coordinating their defense with the president. The Washington Post confirmed Trump’s former national security adviser’s legal team ended the deal Wednesday night.
“I negotiated a cooperation deal for a target with Mueller's office when he was U.S. Atty and lemme tell ya, he's not gonna give one to Flynn unless he implicates someone up the ladder. That means Kushner, Don Jr., or Big Daddy,” wrote Norm Eisner, a former White House Special Counsel for Ethics on Twitter.
“Prosecutors accept cooperation only if you can provide ‘substantial assistance.’ Higher up in the food chain. Stay tuned…,” wrote Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whom Trump fired early this year after he refused to resign.
Mueller’s investigation is probing whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It is also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey who was investigating those matters.
An end to communication does not mean that a cooperation deal has been reached, but it does indicate negotiations are underway. “No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow told the Post. “It’s important to remember that General Flynn received his security clearance under the previous administration.”
After the 2016 election, President Barack Obama warned Trump about hiring Flynn as national security adviser. Early this year former Acting United States Attorney General Sally Yates, who was appointed by Obama, warned Trump’s legal counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.
Flynn was fired by Trump early this year after less than a month working in the White House after it was revealed he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn discussed the potential for lifting sanctions on Russia.
After losing his job, Flynn registered as a foreign agent in March, revealing his company, Flynn Intel Group Inc., was paid $530,000 during the latter months of the election to lobby the U.S. government on behalf of Turkey.
Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller’s investigation is examining a scheme Flynn allegedly proposed to kidnap Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, an avowed enemy of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, from the U.S. and return him to Turkey. The plan would have seen Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., paid $15 million, people with knowledge of the discussions said.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti called the fact that Flynn’s lawyers are no longer coordinating with the president’s “a shocking development.”
“It means that Flynn does not expect Trump to pardon him or his son, or he believes that him or his son could be convicted of unpardonable state offenses,” Mariotti wrote on Twitter.
“The fact that Flynn's lawyers aren't sharing information with Trump's lawyers means that they believe it is no longer in Flynn's interest to do so. It is highly likely that it means Flynn is pursuing a cooperation deal with Mueller,” Mariotti wrote.
“To get a deal, Flynn would need to prove testimony that helped the government make a chargeable case against someone else,” Mariotti added. “It's not enough for Flynn to try hard, although even his attempt to cooperate could be considered by the judge at sentencing.”
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