One of the emerging stories this week concerns Michael Flynn whose legal team has stopped communicating with Trump’s lawyers. The decision to do so has been a sudden one and speculation is rife that Flynn is planning to co-operate with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security advisor, was one of the key figures in Trump’s election campaign, championing Trump and calling for closer ties with Russia. He was forced to resign from his post as national security advisor after misleading Vice-President Mike Pence over meetings with Russians during the campaign. Since then, he has been slated to be one of the several people in Trump’s inner circle that Mueller intends to indict.
The fact that his legal team is no longer communicating with Trump’s team is significant since defense lawyers regularly keep in contact during criminal investigations. However, if one of the team intends to co-operate, then the communication becomes unethical. Generally, this sort of move indicates that the defendant is ready to make a deal.
If Flynn is trying to make a deal or intends to ‘flip’ to Mueller, it’ll be a major step. As one of Trump’s close associates and a major part of the presidential campaign, Flynn would be a star witness. He could provide evidence as to whether illegal contacts took place, whether Trump was aware of them and perhaps just as important, whether Trump obstructed the course of justice in firing James Comey.
But Flynn isn’t just in deep with Russians. Mueller is also examining Flynn’s connections to $530,000 worth of lobbying work with a now-defunct firm. His job was to gather information on exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen that would paint him in a bad light for a documentary film. Flynn has also been revealed to have a connection to a kidnap plot on Gülen.
Of course, nothing has been confirmed yet. We have yet to confirm if Flynn will actually get a deal from Mueller or that Flynn’s co-operation will be accepted. The fact that his lawyers are no longer communicating with Trump’s lawyers is certainly a bad sign for Trump, but until we know for sure, nothing is certain.
On the face of it, it seems that the swiftness of Mueller’s indictments in October and his thorough investigation has clearly rattled Trump and his inner circle. Flynn is clearly worried about Mueller may have already found out, either about his dealings with Turkey or his own Russian connections. He must know that Mueller can offer him what Trump cannot: a deal that sees him avoids most of the consequences.
How much will this affect Trump? Manafort’s indictment and Papadopolous’ revelation that he had been ‘flipped’ by Mueller, possibly gathering evidence in the process, has clearly rattled the administration and their rabid supporters. Mueller’s one-two punch has brought the reality of how serious the suspected collusion with Russia is. However, many speculated that Manafort and Papadopolous were merely the beginning, the small fish being snatched up to reel in the bigger fish.
Flynn will be a much bigger prize. He was a major part of the campaign and his misleading Pence over contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak got him fired. He was one of the first people James Comey investigated and was part of the reason Comey was fired. If anyone is likely to implicate Trump collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice, Flynn is going to be the big one. He is to Trump what John Dean was to Nixon, a star witness who may end up implicating the president in a major scandal.
It also shatters the idea that the Russian investigation is nearing an end. On the contrary, Mueller is merely taking the first steps towards finding the truth. As John Paul Jones famously put it, ‘I have not yet begun to fight’. Flynn may be an example of Mueller’s long-term strategy: rattle your opponents, look for weaknesses and exploit them.
For now, we can only wait for confirmation concerning whether Flynn will get a deal or whether he really intends to co-operate. If he does, and he implicates the President, then things are about to get worse for Trump.