Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1 to lying to the FBI about his talks with Russian Ambbadador Sergey Kislyak, and court records indicate that he was acting in consultation with high-level transition officials Trump. (Jenny Starrs / The Washington Post)
The first White House member of President Trump was indicted and pleaded guilty to an offense stemming from interactions with Russia. And depending on who you ask, the Michael Flynn deal declares the ruin of the Trump administration or is a good sign that Special Advisor Robert S. Mueller III did not form a case.
For the most part, the plea agreement leaves many large and open questions that will determine which side of that debate is correct. Below are four of them.
1. What does Flynn know?
There is no doubt that this debate is more important and, at this moment, of all the research on Russia. Whether you think the plea agreement was appropriate, a good deal or a bad deal, the most significant thing is that it indicates that Flynn is cooperating. And it is likely that their cooperation will be far-reaching.
"The statement is significant not so much on its own, but because of its value as a research tool," said Jack Sharman, who served as special advisor to the House Financial Services Committee during Whitewater's investigation of the president. Clinton. "The special lawyer now has an ally who understands that he will only get a benefit if he cooperates with the investigation and that the meaning of" cooperation "is entirely under the control of prosecutors.
Sharman added that "to have value for the supplicant respondent, their cooperation must be solid, without half measures [on] anything."
It is clear that Flynn was hot on his heels here, as he reported on the night of Friday the Carol D. Leonnig of The Post. And liberals now fantasize that Flynn is spilling all kinds of secrets about possible collusion with Russia and God knows what else. But he can only share that information if he has it.
Trump undoubtedly had a personal affinity for Flynn and seemed to trust him implicitly. But to suggest that Flynn knew that something incriminating was believing that there was something incriminating at all and that Flynn was part of it. And depending on who you ask, the light charges that Flynn begged on Friday could indicate that there simply was not much there.
This is how Andrew C. McCarthy of National Review put it:
Understand: if Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambbadador had demonstrated the existence of a quid pro quo collusion agreement: that the Trump administration would alleviate or eliminate the sanctions on Russia as a reward for Russia's cyber-espionage against the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party; It would have been entirely appropriate, even urgently needed, for the Obama Justice Department to investigate Flynn. But if that had happened, Mueller would not allow Flynn to settle the case with a single charge of lying to the FBI agents. On the other hand, we would be facing a major accusation of conspiracy, and Flynn would be forced to defend himself against far more serious offenses if he wanted a deal: cooperation in exchange for sentencing the indulgence.
On the contrary, despite the furor, he has an argument of small potatoes in the case of Flynn.
2. Why did Flynn lie?
McCarthy's argument absorbed, still raises the question: Why did Flynn feel the need to twist his conversations with the Russian ambbadador? In general, when you talk to the FBI, you should be extremely careful what you say, for fear of exactly the kind of pickle Flynn is in.
Was he simply concerned about violating the Logan Act, a rare one- Did he use the federal law against conducting diplomacy if he is not authorized to do so? Or were Flynn's lies simply the latest in a large volume of people close to Trump who seemed to hide the existence and substance of his contacts with Russia?
It's no secret that Flynn misrepresented the details of these contacts, that we knew from long ago. February, but why would not he have been more careful? Was it because he simply made a mistake and did not fully process the question, or did he really have something to hide? It is hard to believe that one would lie without a good reason, given what is at stake, and yet here we are again.
3. Who else, besides Jared Kushner, directed Flynn to talk to Russia?
According to The Post reports, Flynn contacted the Russian ambbadador with the knowledge and guidance of many influential people.
. . . Court records and persons familiar with the indicated contacts [Flynn] acted in consultation with Trump's senior transitional officials, including President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in his dealings with the diplomat.
Flynn's allegation revealed that he was in contact with Trump's senior transition officials before and after his communications with the ambbadador.
Kushner has been appointed by journalists, but court documents indicate that there were more people involved. And there just were not many people older than Flynn in the transition team.
The biggest question of all seems to be whether one of the officials is President Trump himself.
4. Why did Flynn order Russia not to respond to US sanctions?
One of the things that Flynn pleaded guilty to was lying about asking Russia not to respond to the sanctions recently announced by the Obama administration in response to Russian interference in the 2016 election:
Another conversation, on December 29, Flynn called the ambbadador to ask Russia not to intensify an ongoing fight over the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, according to court records. Later, the ambbadador returned the call and said that Russia had chosen not to retaliate, according to the records.
There are many discussions about these conversations. Perhaps the biggest is why Flynn argued that Russia should not escalate the dispute over sanctions and why Russia granted its request. Did he just make a suggestion and not explain why, or did he say that the Trump administration could try to ease those sanctions when he took over less than a month later?
That has been a central question for most of a year. And it remains so even after Flynn's guilty plea.