Mon, 17 Dec 2018
35
Hartford

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. special counsel investigating interactions between associates of President Donald Trump and Russian officials has recommended that Trump's first national security adviser receive no prison time when he is sentenced by a judge.

The sentencing memo released December 4 by Robert Mueller offered few details into the scope of cooperation that Michael Flynn provided to investigators.

But, according to the memo, Flynn provided 'substantial assistance' and gave information on links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

Flynn is due to be sentenced by a U.S. judge later this month.

The filing, made in U.S. federal court for Washington, D.C., is the latest development in Mueller's criminal investigation, an investigation that has shadowed Trump since before he took office in January 2017.

Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, was a top adviser to Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election, and Trump tapped him to be his first national security adviser, a powerful White House position.

However, Flynn's nomination was dogged by reports that he had secretive conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.

According to court records, Flynn spoke with Kislyak in late December 2016, just a few weeks after Trump's election victory, and just after then-President Barack Obama imposed economic sanctions on Russia in response to U.S. intelligence conclusions that Moscow interfered in the election. Obama also expelled 35 Russian diplomats.

According to court documents and news reports, Flynn tried to persuade Kislyak to tell the Kremlin not to retaliate for the U.S. sanctions. He also discussed with Kislyak an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on Israel.

Flynn was questioned by FBI investigators in the following weeks, and in February 2017, just weeks after Trump took office, Trump forced Flynn to resign amid reports he had misled Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, and other administration officials.

In December 2017, 10 months after being fired, Flynn pleaded guilty to charges of lying to FBI investigations about those conversations with the Russian envoy, and he agreed to cooperate with law enforcement officials probing wider interactions with Russian officials.

Flynn's situation has touched directly on Trump himself. On February 14, 2017, a day after Flynn was fired, Trump met with the then-director of the FBI, James Comey. According to testimony Comey provided to Congress, Trump brought up Flynn's situation, saying 'I hope you can let this go.'

Trump fired Comey three months later, and Mueller, a former FBI director, was then appointed by the Justice Department to take over the FBI investigation.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in his conversation with Comey, but some legal experts have said that if Trump sought to influence Comey, and the overall FBI investigation, into Flynn, that could amount to obstruction of justice, a felony crime.

Flynn's sentencing isn't the only legal development causing problems for Trump.

His former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, faces new charges of lying to FBI investigators, charges that come on top of his earlier conviction on bank and tax fraud charges related to his lobbying work for Ukrainian politicians. Manafort had also pleaded guilty to two counts on conspiracy in a related case.

Mike Eckel

Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington.

EckelM@rferl.org FOLLOW Subscribe via RSS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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