Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, has recommended little to no prison time for former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn for the charges brought against him by Mueller’s team.
The revelation was made in court documents known as sentencing guidelines, in which prosecutors recommend to a federal judge how a defendant should be sentenced.
“Given the defendant’s substantial assistance and other considerations…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,” Mueller wrote.
Sentencing guidelines are known to offer insight into a case as prosecutors must lay out what specific crimes the defendant has committed as well as the extent, if any, to which that defendant has helped their investigation.
They are valuable because any allegations made in them are believed to be backed up by evidence in the prosecutors’ possession. They are especially notable in Flynn’s case because these are the first sentencing guidelines brought forth against someone who has both pleaded guilty to crimes alleged by the Mueller team and that has agreed to cooperate.
Other individuals formerly associated with the Trump campaign and/or former Trump officials, such as George Papadopoulos, Dutch lawyer Alex Van der Zwaan and internet salesman Richard Pinedo, have pleaded guilty but have not agreed to cooperate.
Former senior Trump campaign members Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have signed cooperation deals with Mueller but have not yet been sentenced.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI. He was accused of speaking with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in December 2016 and asking him to convince the Russian government to not retaliate to additional sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration. He then lied about having those conversations, as well as what was discussed in them, to the FBI.
Perhaps the most surprising revelation made in the sentencing guidelines is that Flynn has also helped federal prosecutors with two other investigations heretofore undisclosed. The revelation of the other investigations was made in a 6-page addendum to the sentencing guidelines which is heavily redacted because it includes “sensitive information about ongoing investigations.”
“As part of his assistance with these investigations, the defendant participated in 19 interviews with the [Special Counsel’s Office] or attorneys from other Department of Justice offices,” Mueller’s team writes.
The nineteen interviews are widely regarded as quite a large number by legal experts.
Mueller and his team have been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election since May 2017. Many legal watchers, along with the president’s legal team, have been predicting for some time that the Mueller investigation may be winding down. With the revelation of the additional investigations those predictions have once again had doubt cast on them. It is unclear how, or whether, those additional investigations relate to the existing special counsel investigation.
According to Mueller, one of the things that his team took into account when recommending the low sentence was how quickly and completely Flynn decided to cooperate with it.
“The usefulness of the defendant’s assistance is connected to its timeliness. The defendant began providing information to the government not long after the government first sought his cooperation. His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation by the SCO,” Mueller’s team wrote.
They also believe that Flynn’s decision to cooperate convinced others to do the same.
“Additionally, the defendant’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate.”
Flynn will be sentenced in district court in Washington, D.C., on December 18.