Michael Flynn, one of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prime targets in the Russia collusion investigation, will likely serve no prison time due to the level of cooperation he has provided Mueller’s team and his extensive and honorable military career. The sentencing memo, released late on Tuesday, December 4, recommends: “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.”
In a nutshell, this is the principal takeaway from the seven-page document: that nothing the former three-star general did in the run-up to the 2016 election and immediately after was severe enough to warrant a prison term, except that he allegedly made false statements to federal investigators.
…bore no relation to any attempt to enlist Russian assistance in affecting the outcome of the election.
Interestingly, the memo – from which information about ongoing investigations was omitted – says little about Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials. The context of those discussions, primarily with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, bore no relation to any attempt to enlist Russian assistance in affecting the outcome of the election.
Russian Collusion Still Illusive
While speculation swirls regarding what information the general may have provided to Mueller’s team, nothing in the sentencing memo – at least nothing publicly released – indicates that the special counsel is any closer to proving any direct and deliberate collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign team and the Russian government.
The memo alleges that Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials concerned sanctions imposed on Russia, as well as a United Nations Security Council resolution. Both measures resulted from Russia’s ongoing disputes with Ukraine and the former’s annexing of the Crimean Peninsula. Flynn was apparently attempting to dissuade the Russians from further escalating tensions. The special counsel charges that Flynn had not been honest about the timing and nature of these contacts.
Beyond the general’s interactions with the Russians, the sentencing memo focuses largely on Flynn’s dealings with the government of Turkey. The general failed to register with the United States government for work that his company performed in Turkey and was, therefore, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The nature of his dealings with the foreign government following the 2016 attempted coup against Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is not detailed in the memo. But special counsel prosecutors claim Flynn’s failure to disclose his work “impeded the ability of the public to learn about the Republic of Turkey’s efforts to influence public opinion about the failed coup … “
As evidence of Russian collusion continues to elude them, then, Mueller’s army of prosecutors continue to dredge up process crimes – such as making false statements to federal investigators – and an assortment of other transgressions, such as financial crimes, tax evasion and potential violations of the Hatch Act. The president’s opponents continue to hope and believe that each new development, such as the release of this sentencing memo, brings Mueller a step closer to uncovering some dreadful crime that can be pinned on Trump. This still appears to be a false hope, however.
Given a blank check to go after the president, Mueller cast a wide net, and all indications are that his team is now pulling that net in and tying up loose ends, prosecuting anyone they can catch before preparing the final report.
Those who think Mueller will wrap up his operation within weeks may yet be disappointed. The nature of Michael Flynn’s cooperation with the special counsel is yet to be disclosed – if it ever will be – and more charges may be in the pipeline, indictments of individuals not widely known to the general public but involved with Flynn’s secretive work for the Turkish government. Meanwhile, Robert Mueller appears no closer to pinning a Russian conspiracy on the president than he was when he first accepted his appointment.