STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

How to read between the lines of Mueller's blacked-out memo on Michael Flynn

Special Counsel Robert Mueller ...

Posted: Dec 5, 2018 5:58 PM
Updated: Dec 5, 2018 5:58 PM

Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a two-part sentencing memo for Michael Flynn on Tuesday night. The memo is heavily redacted, leaving much to the imagination, but it confirms that Flynn provided Mueller with valuable inside information on multiple ongoing criminal investigations, including Mueller's core investigation of whether Russian officials colluded with members of the campaign of President Donald Trump.

Think of the memo like a movie trailer: you watch it and think, "I don't know exactly what this is going to be about, but it's definitely going to be good." Bottom line: Mueller still has many more revelations to drop, and they're going to land hard.

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal investigations

Criminal law

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Elections and campaigns

Europe

Government and public administration

Investigations

Law and legal system

Michael T. Flynn

Political Figures - US

Politics

Robert Mueller

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Sentencing

Government bodies and offices

US federal government

White House

In part one of the sentencing submission, Mueller meticulously lays out the details of Flynn's crimes, which Mueller deems "serious." Most importantly, Flynn lied to the FBI about conversations in which he asked Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to refrain from escalating the Russian response to sanctions imposed by then-President Obama because of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Despite Flynn's serious crimes, Mueller asks the court to impose a minimal sentence -- "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's memo makes this recommendation primarily because of Flynn's "substantial assistance to the government." I've handled dozens of federal cooperators and I have at times specifically requested no jail time -- but only for those who cooperated promptly, fully, truthfully and productively. A sentence of no jail time here is within the sentencing guidelines range of 0 to 6 months but, notably, Mueller did not seek no jail time for less valuable or more problematic cooperators including George Papadopoulos (for whom Mueller requested up to six months in jail -- and who was sentenced to 14 days of imprisonment) and Paul Manafort (whose cooperation collapsed altogether, which Mueller is due to detail in another filing due on Friday).

Indeed, in part two of the submission, Mueller informs the court that Flynn's cooperation was "substantial," and "particularly valuable." Having whet the reader's appetite, however, Mueller then proceeds to offer up a sea of black redaction ink. But Mueller also offers several important clues about what Flynn has done, and what is still to come.

First, Mueller tells the court that Flynn has cooperated on "several ongoing investigations." Every word of that phrase matters: Mueller has used Flynn's information on multiple investigations, and those investigations are not yet over.

So whatever fruits Flynn gave to Mueller -- and we know Flynn gave a lot, because Mueller discloses that his team and other federal prosecutors met with Flynn for a whopping 19 interviews -- Mueller has not fully harvested them yet.

As Mueller puts it, "some of that benefit [from Flynn's cooperation] may not be fully realized at this time because the investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing." Translation: people are going to get charged based on Flynn' s information, but not just yet.

Mueller offers other enticing clues about the nature of those ongoing investigations. It appears that Flynn has contributed to three distinct investigations: (1) an investigation of "interactions between the [Trump] transition team and Russian government officials," including the dealings of Flynn and potentially others with Kislyak over sanctions; (2) Mueller's core "investigation concerning any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump;" and (3) another mystery case.

Mueller's description of the mystery case, at section I.A of part two of the submission, begins with "The defendant has provided substantial assistance in a criminal investigation" -- followed by 22 lines of black redaction ink. There simply is no way to know who or what this investigation is about. But we do know that it is separate from the investigation of Russian election interference; that it is ongoing; and that Flynn provided information to Mueller about it. If Mueller deemed the mystery case worth including in Flynn's sentencing memo, it likely is an important one.

Mueller then provides some hints about Flynn's cooperation on the Russian election interference investigation. First, we now know that Flynn did have at least some information about Russian election interference and "links of coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign." That in itself is noteworthy: Flynn, who held influential and high-ranking positions in the Trump campaign and the early days of the administration, has provided Mueller with information about collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Just as the reader begins to lean in to read the details of Flynn's cooperation on election interference, however, Mueller offers up 31 lines of redaction interrupted only by the phrase "[t]he defendant also provided useful information concerning." So we do not know precisely what Flynn has told Mueller about collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign -- but we know he has told Mueller something, and likely quite a bit.

Mueller has shown a knack for conveying much important information in few words. Those 31 lines of redactions from Mueller could obscure extensive information about Russian election interference, and could spell the death of Trump's "no collusion" refrain.

Mueller offers one final clue in his closing paragraph when he notes that Flynn's cooperation "was particularly valuable" because he provided "long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation" by Mueller's team. The word "firsthand" is important because it means that Flynn was a direct eyewitness to the events he described to Mueller -- whereas less valuable cooperators sometimes offer only secondhand, hearsay or background information. Flynn was actually in the room for the events he described to Mueller, and not merely a second-tier witness peddling rumors and say-so.

So we do not yet know everything about Flynn's cooperation and indeed the heavy redactions hide nearly all the details that Mueller provided to the court. But, if you read around all that black ink, Mueller did say enough to let us know this: Flynn gave up the goods, and Mueller's work is far from over.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Russian government officials as campaign officials.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 40163

Reported Deaths: 1528
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12867789
Ramsey5066230
Dakota252494
Stearns244819
Anoka2328111
Nobles16766
Olmsted119617
Washington119040
Mower9722
Rice8628
Scott8034
Clay59838
Kandiyohi5841
Blue Earth5352
Wright5055
Carver4331
Todd4022
Sherburne3405
Lyon3312
Freeborn3020
Watonwan2420
Steele2401
Benton2283
St. Louis20316
Nicollet18712
Martin1715
Cottonwood1380
Goodhue1378
Winona13315
Le Sueur1171
Pine1110
Crow Wing10812
Chisago1031
Otter Tail1021
McLeod960
Dodge930
Carlton890
Polk863
Unassigned8438
Chippewa791
Isanti780
Waseca730
Itasca6812
Douglas670
Murray670
Pipestone664
Meeker621
Morrison611
Faribault600
Becker570
Jackson570
Sibley562
Pennington530
Beltrami410
Brown392
Renville372
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha340
Rock310
Yellow Medicine310
Fillmore300
Houston290
Swift251
Grant220
Norman210
Redwood210
Wilkin213
Cass192
Roseau190
Big Stone170
Koochiching171
Kanabec161
Wadena160
Aitkin150
Marshall120
Pope120
Lincoln110
Clearwater100
Mahnomen101
Hubbard80
Stevens80
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33162

Reported Deaths: 740
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6990182
Woodbury328243
Black Hawk239759
Buena Vista172711
Johnson13848
Linn134183
Dallas133031
Marshall106819
Scott92610
Dubuque83422
Story8254
Pottawattamie78012
Wapello71231
Muscatine68344
Crawford6793
Sioux4930
Tama47829
Wright3891
Louisa36313
Plymouth3365
Jasper33217
Warren3001
Dickinson2853
Webster2844
Washington2489
Cerro Gordo2231
Hamilton1931
Boone1601
Clay1431
Clarke1403
Allamakee1354
Clinton1211
Mahaska11817
Shelby1180
Poweshiek1088
Carroll1041
Pocahontas1041
Bremer1027
Franklin990
Des Moines952
Emmet920
Henry903
Hardin880
Cedar851
Cherokee811
Taylor810
Monona770
Marion750
Floyd742
Benton721
Guthrie724
Jones680
Sac650
Osceola640
Iowa621
Jefferson620
Buchanan611
Butler602
Humboldt591
Calhoun582
Hancock571
Harrison560
Delaware541
Fayette540
Lee542
Madison512
Monroe517
Jackson480
Lyon480
Clayton473
Mills460
Palo Alto460
Mitchell430
Winneshiek430
Davis421
Grundy420
Kossuth390
Howard370
Union370
Lucas324
Winnebago310
Chickasaw290
Greene290
Cass270
Ida230
Unassigned220
Appanoose213
Van Buren210
Worth210
Keokuk201
Page200
Adair160
Audubon161
Ringgold151
Decatur120
Montgomery112
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont80
Rochester
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 79°
Mason City
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Albert Lea
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Austin
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Charles City
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 80°
Cooler air finally filtering in, rain chance returns Saturday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Mental health resources available

Image

Dave 6:30 7/10 Wx

Image

Shooting investigation underway in Rochester

Image

Advice for safely starting school in the fall

Image

Racial Disparities Regarding Food Security

Image

George Floyd's Family Visits Rochester Mural

Image

Sean's 6pm Weather 7/9

Image

Differences between Covid-19 and other illness

Image

Virtual Thursdays Downtown

Image

Tutors needed in Rochester

Community Events