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Signs point to possible Flynn deal in Mueller probe

  • FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2017 file photo, then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington. The few public signs emanating from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation increasingly raise the prospect that Flynn is looking to cut a deal. But many questions remain about what charges, if any, Flynn would face and whether Mueller’s prosecutors are focused on his private business dealings and truthfulness with federal agents, or if they’re looking for a bigger fish like the president himself or those who remain in his inner circle.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) Carolyn Kaster

  • FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election at the Capitol in Washington. Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller have postponed grand jury testimony related to the private business dealings of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. That's according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. Scott Applewhite

  • FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, file photo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Donald Trump answers questions at a news conference, in Bedminster, N.J. Kushner has been questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators about former national security adviser Michael Flynn. That's according to a person familiar with the investigation who spoke to The Associated Press on Nov. 29, on condition of anonymity. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) Pablo Martinez Monsivais



Associated Press
Thursday, November 30, 2017

The few public signs emanating from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation increasingly raise the prospect that former national security adviser Michael Flynn is looking to cut a deal.

But many questions remain about what charges, if any, Flynn would face and whether Mueller’s prosecutors are focused on his private business dealings and truthfulness with federal agents, or if they’re looking for a bigger fish like the president himself or those who remain in his inner circle.

A plea would certainly be a Washington bombshell, putting a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and close friend of the president in a criminal courtroom and planting the sprawling investigation led by the no-nonsense former FBI director squarely in the White House.

Yet the extreme secrecy of Mueller’s investigation – including the ability to keep the lid on the arrest of a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser for months – has left even those who regularly interact with his prosecutors reading tea leaves. And it’s made sorting out the significance of recent events surrounding Flynn an amorphous – and at times partisan – exercise. Outside observers are urging caution in reading too much into the moves, while acknowledging that some are more significant than others.

“You get so few scraps of information that it’s awfully tempting to unpack what little information you have and see what’s there,” said Andrew Leipold, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law.

A critical person in Trump’s campaign and national security team, Flynn was present for consequential decisions during the formative days of the administration and functioned as a main conduit for contacts with Russian officials. He could be an essential witness for Mueller, if he chose, as he investigates potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In recent days, though, White House lawyers have downplayed the significance of Flynn’s legal troubles for the president, drawing a clear line between Flynn’s personal baggage and his work on the Trump campaign and the administration.

The feeling of suspense around the Mueller investigation only deepened this week with the cancellation of grand jury testimony, an ABC News report that Flynn’s attorney was meeting with Mueller’s team and the revelation Wednesday that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had been questioned about Flynn earlier this month by special counsel prosecutors.

Leipold, the law professor, said he would be careful attaching too much meaning to the recently postponed grand jury testimony. But he said it was potentially a telling sign of cooperation with Mueller’s team that Flynn’s attorneys have broken off communication, or information-sharing, with the Trump legal team.

“It means something,” he said. “If you and I are cooperating and you say all of a sudden, ‘I’m not cooperating anymore,’ there’s probably a pretty good reason,” he said.

The cutting of contact with Trump’s legal team came last week after Kushner was questioned by Mueller’s investigators, which occurred earlier this month.

The questioning was brief – 90 minutes or less – and tightly focused on Flynn. It was in part aimed at determining whether Kushner had any exculpatory information on Flynn, according to a person familiar with Mueller’s investigation. Kushner and Flynn were both prominent figures in the Trump campaign, the presidential transition and the early days of the Trump administration.