Special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited sentencing memorandum in the case of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI, was finally made available on Dec. 4. Notably, Mueller recommended no jail time for Flynn, noting his “substantial cooperation and other considerations.”
Of particular note were the specific items Flynn was cooperating on with the special counsel, as outlined in the sentencing memorandum.
Under the section “Significance and Usefulness of the Defendant’s Assistance,” it states that “the defendant has assisted with several ongoing investigations”—including a criminal investigation, the special counsel’s investigation into Russia collusion, and a third, unknown investigation. It also states that Flynn has participated in 19 interviews with the special counsel or attorneys from other Department of Justice offices and has provided documents and communications.
Mueller stated in the memorandum that Flynn has provided “substantial assistance” and that “some of that benefit may not be fully realized at this time because the investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing.”
The disclosure of the additional, ongoing investigations, particularly the criminal investigation, is new information, as is the level of cooperation by Flynn on issues outside of the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
All descriptions of the criminal investigation are fully redacted, as are descriptions of the third, unknown investigation. The reasons for the extensive redactions relate, at least in part, to the fact that these investigations remain ongoing.
The section dedicated to Mueller’s investigation into “links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign” is, for the most part, unredacted, which may provide indications that the Russia investigation is approaching a conclusion. There does not appear to be any evidence of collusion being alleged in the sentencing document.
The sentencing memo also notes that Flynn “provided firsthand information about the content and context of interactions between the transition team and Russian government officials,” noting that “several senior members of the transition team publicly repeated false information conveyed to them by the defendant about communications” between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador.
In the memo, Mueller refers to Flynn’s “long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation.”
Under “Timeliness of the Defendant’s Assistance,” the memo states:
“The defendant began providing information to the government not long after the government first sought his cooperation.
“His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation by the [special counsel].”
This is particularly notable given that Flynn’s tenure with the formal Trump administration amounted to just 24 days. Flynn previously served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under the Obama administration from 2012 to 2014. Flynn was removed from his position with the DIA by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Also covered in the sentencing memorandum are Flynn’s contact with the Republic of Turkey that took place after Flynn’s lobbying company contracted with the Turkish government in August 2016. The project, which lasted three months, resulted in Flynn’s company receiving $530,000.
The sentencing memorandum notes that Flynn’s Foreign Agents Registration Act filings omitted that Turkish officials provided supervision and direction over the Turkey project, which took place when Flynn was an informal national security adviser to the Trump campaign.
No Jail Time Recommended
The sentencing memo suggests that Flynn should not be given jail time:
“Given the defendant’s substantial assistance and other considerations set forth below, 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.”
It is worth noting that the special counsel has proven notoriously rigid in relation to sentencing and prosecution. If Flynn had any sort of role in attempts to actively collude with Russia, his chances of not receiving jail time would likely be nonexistent.
Flynn was interviewed on Jan. 24, 2017 by FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka regarding his December 2016 conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. As noted in a May 15, 2018, letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley, former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the agents interviewing Flynn did not believe that Flynn had lied to them.
Additionally, The Washington Post reported in January 2017 that the FBI had found no evidence of wrongdoing in Flynn’s actual call with the Russian ambassador. The call, and the matters discussed, broke no laws.
Nevertheless, Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI regarding his conversations with Kislyak. It remains unknown who actually leaked Flynn’s highly classified call with the Russian ambassador to the media—a far more serious felony violation.
Jeff Carlson is a CFA® Charterholder. He worked for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio manager in the high-yield bond market. He runs the website TheMarketsWork.com