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Prosecutors recommend no prison time for Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor

Prosecutors recommend no prison time for Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor
Michael Flynn, center, arrives at court in Washington in July. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Michael Flynn, a retired Army general who was forced out as President Trump’s national security advisor after misleading other White House officials, has provided “substantial” assistance to investigators in the Russia case and should be spared prison time despite lying to FBI agents, prosecutors told a federal court Tuesday.

They said Flynn had participated in 19 separate interviews with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office and other areas of the Justice Department while assisting in multiple ongoing investigations, including whether there was any coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government.

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Although key details were redacted, court documents said Flynn disclosed “interactions between the [Trump] transition team and Russian government officials,” as well as other significant information.

In addition, prosecutors revealed that Flynn had helped the Justice Department with what appears to be a separate investigation from the Russia inquiry. The details were blacked out in one of the two documents submitted to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

“The investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing,” prosecutors wrote in an addendum to the sentencing memo. They repeatedly described his help as substantial.

The filings are the first to lay out the extent of Flynn’s cooperation. He is the only member of Trump’s White House team who has been charged in the sprawling criminal investigation, which so far has charged or obtained guilty pleas from 33 individuals, including several of Trump’s former senior aides and associates.

Flynn pleaded guilty last December to lying to federal agents about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition, falsely claiming that they did not discuss U.S. sanctions. As part of his plea deal, Flynn agreed to cooperate with the special counsel.

“A sentence that does not impose a term of incarceration … is appropriate and warranted,” prosecutors wrote.

They said Flynn’s “record of military and public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged” in the Mueller investigation. “However, senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards.”

But they also praised Flynn for “accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government,” including providing documents and communications to Mueller’s team and other Justice Department prosecutors.

Defense lawyers will have their own opportunity to make a recommendation to the judge before he is sentenced on Dec. 18.

Flynn's family appeared pleased by the prosecutors' recommendation. “It is not over yet but tonight was good news,” tweeted his brother, Joseph Flynn.

Flynn, 59, served 33 years in the Army and helped lead high-profile efforts to overhaul military intelligence operations as U.S. forces struggled against insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He later returned to Washington and led the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, but he was pushed out after clashing with other members of President Obama’s administration in 2014.

The former lieutenant general became one of Trump’s most vocal and visible supporters during the 2016 campaign. At the Republican National Convention, he said Hillary Clinton should be jailed for her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State, leading chants to “lock her up.”

After the election, Flynn joined Trump’s White House as national security advisor, a pivotal role that gave him access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets. But he soon became a target in the Russia investigation, and he was ousted after only three weeks on the job.

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His departure came after the Justice Department warned the White House that he could be vulnerable to blackmail because he misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador in Washington.

Flynn also lied in an interview with FBI agents. He falsely denied telling Kislyak that Russia should not retaliate when the Obama administration enacted sanctions to punish Moscow for interfering in the election by spreading disinformation on social media and hacking Democratic Party emails.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would not get even with its own sanctions, Kislyak called Flynn to say the decision was in response to his request, according to court documents.

Those topics were “material to the FBI’s investigation into the nature of any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign,” prosecutors wrote in their court filing on Tuesday evening.

James B. Comey, then the FBI director, said later that Trump asked him to end the investigation into Flynn.

“I hope you can let this go,” he recalled the president saying the day after Flynn left the White House.

Although Trump has denied asking Comey to drop the investigation, Mueller is investigating whether the president sought to obstruct justice in that case or others.

After pleading guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, Flynn has kept a relatively low profile, making a handful of appearances at conservative events or stumping for the occasional Republican candidate.

“I'm not here to complain about who has done me wrong,” Flynn said at a GOP campaign event in California in March. “Or how unfair I've been treated. Or how unfair the entire process has been. It is what it is.”

Prosecutors’ recommendation for Flynn’s sentence stands in contrast to the hard line they took with George Papadopoulos, a former low-level campaign foreign policy advisor, who also pleaded guilty to making false statements last year and hoped to avoid prison time.

In a memo, prosecutors said Papadopoulos was unhelpful after he agreed to cooperate. They also complained that he harmed the Russia inquiry by lying about his overseas contacts, making it more difficult for investigators to follow up with a key figure in the case.

Papadopoulos was later sentenced to 14 days in prison, and he was imprisoned on Nov. 26.

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Flynn, however, was a much different story, according to prosecutors.

“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 special counsel's office, prosecutors wrote.

In addition, they believe his guilty plea encouraged other “related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming” with Mueller’s team.

6:45 p.m.: The article was updated with details from the court filings.

5:40 p.m.: The article was updated with the release of prosecutors’ sentencing memo in Flynn’s case

The article was originally published at 6 a.m.

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