Michael Flynn: Mueller recommends no prison time for ex-Trump adviser

Jon Swaine
Michael Flynn at the White House on 13 February 2017. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has given “substantial assistance” to the Trump-Russia investigation and other inquiries, the special counsel Robert Mueller said late on Tuesday.

But in a heavily redacted court filing that is likely to alarm Trump’s inner circle, Mueller shielded the details of Flynn’s cooperation because they include “sensitive information about ongoing investigations”, he said.

Mueller recommended to a judge that Flynn, who participated in 19 interviews and provided investigators with documents and communications, should not be given a prison sentence for the crime of lying to the FBI.

The two-part sentencing memo said Flynn had given first-hand accounts of “interactions between individuals in the presidential transition team and Russia” following Trump’s election win in November 2016. A further 24 lines of text detailing his assistance with the Trump-Russia investigation were redacted.

The special counsel also reported that Flynn had provided “substantial assistance” in a separate criminal investigation whose details were completely redacted, and had assisted with a third matter that was not described at all.

Mueller said Flynn had been a valuable witness and deserved credit for promptly admitting wrongdoing and cooperating with investigators. His 33-year military career and other public service also “distinguish him from every other person who has been charged” by Mueller’s team, the filing said.

Flynn last year admitted lying to investigators about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the US late in December 2016. The discussions related to sanctions the then president, Barack Obama, had imposed on Moscow over its interference in the US election, and a UN security council vote on halting new Israeli settlements.

Trump and White House advisers had been anxiously awaiting the filing on Tuesday, following other explosive developments in Mueller’s investigation.

Last week Michael Cohen, Trump’s former legal fixer, said he had lied to Congress about Trump’s plans to build a tower in Moscow, in an attempt to protect the president. Days earlier, Mueller’s team scrapped a plea deal with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, after he allegedly continued lying to investigators even after promising to cooperate.

The president claimed on Twitter on Monday that Mueller was “a much different man than people think” and praised his own longtime associate Roger Stone for refusing to testify against him – a move legal experts said could amount to criminal witness tampering.

Sentencing memos filed by Mueller in other prosecutions so far, including that of the former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, had contained new information about wrongdoing and cooperation by the subjects.

Mueller found that on 29 December 2016, Flynn asked Russia’s ambassador not to retaliate against Obama’s sanctions, after receiving instructions from a senior member of Trump’s transition team, who was with the president-elect at Trump’s private club in Florida.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, indicated in a statement the following day that Russia would not retaliate, a move Trump praised as “very smart”. Mueller said the Russian ambassador then called Flynn on 31 December to explain that Putin’s decision was a response to Flynn’s request.

Mueller also said that under direction from a “very senior” member of the Trump team, reported to be Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Flynn successfully urged Russia to vote against the resolution on Israel at the UN.

In Tuesday’s memo, Mueller offered a new criticism for a third area of false statements Flynn admitted last year. Flynn acknowledged that, when belatedly registering as a lobbyist in the US for Turkey, he had failed to disclose that his $530,000 project in 2016 was directed by Turkish government officials.

On election day 2016, Flynn published an opinion article on the Hill, a political website, advocating for the removal of a dissident Turkish cleric from the US, yet failed to disclose in public filings that the piece was written on behalf of the Turkish government.

“At the time, the defendant was a national security advisor and surrogate for the Trump campaign who opined publicly on foreign policy and national security issues,” Mueller said, adding this was exactly the type of relationship supposed to be made public by the disclosure laws.