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Opinion Flynn could implicate any number of Trump officials — and Trump himself

Then-national security adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House on Feb. 1. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

The Wall Street Journal reported last week:

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn’s work on an unfinished film financed by Turkish interests as part of its wider probe into whether Mr. Flynn improperly concealed financial ties to Turkey and to Russia, according to people familiar with the matter.
The focus on the film comes amid signs that Mr. Flynn may be working on a deal with Mr. Mueller. Mr. Flynn’s lawyers this week stopped cooperating with White House attorneys defending the president, according to other people familiar with the matter, a possible sign that Mr. Flynn is sharing information with investigators.

Robert S. Mueller III is reportedly looking into Michael Flynn’s involvement with a “documentary film targeting an exiled Turkish cleric who Ankara accuses of trying to overthrow the country’s president.” Flynn also faces legal questions about his failure to register as a foreign agent. . . [and] the alleged role played by Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr. , in a plan to forcibly remove [Fethullah] Gulen and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars.”

The issues swirling around Flynn’s involvement with Turkey are in addition to any liability he may face from his contacts with the Russians during the presidential transition and his alleged lying to Vice President Pence and others about those contacts.

President Trump's troubles have only just begun with the charges facing former campaign advisers Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos. (Video: Adriana Usero, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)

Flynn, like former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, has a plethora of legal troubles, some of which overlap with the investigation into possible collusion between the Russians and President Trump’s campaign and some of which seem to be personal and financial but unrelated to the Trump team. Mueller is in a position to trade leniency or even immunity on any of Flynn’s doings (or his son’s) in exchange for implicating more senior officials, including the president, the president’s family, the vice president and the attorney general.

There are a long list of Trump officials, colleagues and relatives who have reason to worry.

  • Both New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who first headed the transition, and Pence, who replaced him, claim they did not know about Flynn’s legal troubles over his ties to Turkey. If they falsely told investigators this, Flynn could contradict them, leaving them vulnerable to charges of lying to federal investigators.
  • Likewise, Pence and others in the administration claim to have been in the dark about Flynn’s communications with the Russians during the transition. If they knew differently, again they face charges of making false claims.
  • Flynn would also be in a position to substantiate contacts between campaign officials (e.g., Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr., Carter Page) and Russian officials, thereby supporting claims of collusion or at the very least exposing them to perjury charges based on testimony under oath or on financial disclosure forms.
  • As Trump’s most visible foreign policy adviser, Flynn would have had a front-row seat to a host of events — the change in the Republican National Convention platform to deny Ukraine arms to defend against Russian aggression, the drafting of his foreign policy speech in the spring of 2016 to which Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was invited and the hiring of so many advisers with ties (financial and otherwise) that may reveal a concerted plan to cooperate with the Russia.

It’s Trump himself who may have the most to lose from Flynn’s cooperation with Mueller. Trump has denied knowing about contacts with Russian officials. Flynn’s testimony to the contrary could be politically fatal to Trump.

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Moreover, Flynn claims that Trump remained in contact with him after Flynn was fired. (“Not only did he remain loyal to President Trump; [Flynn] indicated that he and the president were still in communication. ‘I just got a message from the president to stay strong,’ Flynn said after [a meal with supporters] was over, according to two sources who are close to Flynn and are familiar with the conversation, which took place on April 25.”) Flynn might therefore be able to substantiate claims that Trump intended to interfere with the investigation, which may amount to obstruction of justice. Did Flynn know in advance that Trump was going to fire FBI Director James B. Comey, and did he know if the reason Trump wanted to shut down the investigation was related to the Russia investigation and/or Flynn’s own wrongdoing? If so, Trump and those who advised the president to fire Comey (e.g., Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Sessions) could be in deep trouble.

In addition,  Flynn, who became close to the president and his family during the campaign, may have a wealth of knowledge about financial ties between the Trump family and Russian oligarchs.

In other words, Flynn is the nonfamily member who was closest to Trump, Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. and therefore is in the best position to provide evidence supporting serious legal charges against President Trump and his family. If Flynn has such information and chooses to share it with prosecutors Trump’s presidency likely would be imperiled. That would surely explain why Trump wanted to spare Flynn from prosecution and why Trump Jr. and Kushner wanted to rid themselves of Comey.