President Trump’s allies are signaling that they believe former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has no information to incriminate the president.
A source close to the legal team said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller filings on Friday is the extent of Mr. Flynn’s incriminating statements about White House and campaign officials.
The retired three-star Army general pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one charge of lying to the FBI about two contacts he made during the 2016 post-election transition with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Mr. Mueller’s charges make references to two unnamed Trump aides who worked with Mr. Flynn on the telephone calls.
Liberal TV pundits wildly speculated afterward that Mr. Flynn is ready to bring down the president.
But the legal-team source told The Washington Times, “There is simply no factual basis to implicate the president. He’s got nothing else. What you see in the criminal information is it. He’s empty.”
The person said that contrary to a news report Mr. Trump did not order Mr. Flynn to make contact with the ambassador.
The source said that if Mr. Flynn was prepared to testify against the president, that fact would have been part of the pleading.
“You make him plead to something that he did with the president. That didn’t happen,” the source said. The Mueller filings “contain nothing about the president. That’s the key,” the source said.
The source said Mr. Mueller’s staff owns all the pertinent emails involving Mr. Flynn and transition and White House officials.
“The key is all of those people have been interviewed by special counsel,” the source said.
The source said the email threads show Mr. Flynn misled White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and others about what was discussed.
It is well known Mr. Flynn also misled Vice President Mike Pence, for which he was fired as national security adviser.
The source said that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose transition job was outreach to Washington diplomats, did not specifically order Mr. Flynn to call the ambassador.
“They divided up the calls for outreach to foreign governments,” the source said. When Mr. Kushner was interviewed by Mr. Mueller’s office he explained his contacts.
“Jared told the truth and Flynn didn’t,” the source said.
Mr. Mueller’s criminal information states that on Dec. 29 Mr. Flynn urged the Russian ambassador not to escalate a response to the Obama administration slapping Moscow with sanctions for interfering in the 2016 election by computer hacking.
After Barack Obama signed an executive order, the ambassador contacted Mr. Flynn. Mr. Flynn then talked with an unnamed senior transition official at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida residence
The two discussed the need for Russia not to escalate the situation which might interfere in the president’s foreign policy goals, the Mueller filings state.
Shortly afterward, Mr. Flynn contacted the ambassador and conveyed the message. On Dec. 31, the ambassador called and said Moscow would not retaliate.
The special counsel does not allege that Mr. Flynn was ordered to make the call.
In a Dec. 22 discussion, Mr. Flynn urged the ambassador to delay a United Nations Security Council vote on resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
The criminal filings said a “very senior member of the presidential transition team” told Mr. Flynn to call Security Council members and determined their stance and to urge them to delay the vote or oppose the resolution.
The legal team source said that person was not Mr. Trump.
Conservative legal pundits opined that, while the transition could be viewed as intervening in foreign affairs before taking office, they do not believe Mr. Flynn’s calls violated federal law.
Mr. Mueller’s filings could be making a case for charging someone with violating the rarely enforced 1799 Logan Act.
It forbids “any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States directly or indirectly” from communicating with foreign governments to influence the conduct of those countries.
Because a presidential transition team is authorized and financed by federal law, it could be viewed as not covered by the Logan Act, legal experts say
“Flynn was not acting as a private citizen, as the law defines it,” wrote Fox News legal Analyst Gregg Jarrett. “He was serving in a wholly different capacity – as a government representative of a president about to assume office.”
“There was nothing wrong in making those calls,” the legal team source said.
The ongoing criminal probe was begun by the FBI in July 2016 about the same time it received a briefing on the Democratic Party-financed Trump-Russia dossier. It alleged the existence of an “extensive conspiracy between Trump’s campaign team and the Kremlin.”
More than a year later, none of the dossier’s collusion charges has been confirmed publicly.
Mr. Mueller’s filings in the Flynn case make no mention of election collusion.
After Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea, Ty Cobb, one of the president’s lawyers, issued a statement:
“Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.
“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.”
Mr. Obama appointed Mr. Flynn as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, then fired him over policy differences.
The president tweeted Saturday, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at email@example.com.
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