The Narrow Scope of the Flynn Denials

The WaPo has a story telegraphing Trump defense plans to attack Mike Flynn as a liar to claim whatever testimony he has provided Mueller’s team is a lie.

Trump’s legal team has seized on Flynn’s agreement with prosecutors as fodder for a possible defense, if necessary. In court filings, the retired lieutenant general admitted that he lied to the FBI about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the December 2016 transition.

“He’s said it himself: He’s a liar,” said one person helping craft the strategy who was granted anonymity to describe private conversations.

Mostly, it serves as an opportunity for Trump defense lawyers to express confidence that Flynn can’t damage them.

Attorneys for Trump and his top advisers have privately expressed confidence that Flynn does not have any evidence that could implicate the president or his White House team.

But then there’s this remarkable passage, where the anonymous defense sources for this story provide pretty empty denials of the things with which Flynn might be able to incriminate Trump’s folks.

Defense lawyers have said privately that Flynn will be unable to point to White House or campaign records turned over in the probe to bolster any claims of a criminal scheme. None of those records suggest a conspiracy by Trump or his inner circle to improperly work with Russians to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, according to people who have reviewed the documents.

These lawyers are suggesting that Flynn would have campaign records reflecting coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign. They’re suggesting that if Trump or his flunkies “improperly work[ed] with Russians to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton” there’d be paper records.

What they’re not denying, however, is that Flynn attended meetings or otherwise knew of communications doing such things.

19 replies
  1. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Aren’t these the same people who were hissy-fitting about Mueller obtaining transition emails from the GSA and sidestepping their “review”?

    I mean, I don’t expect to see messages or documents show up with “Subject: DOING A COLLUSION WITH RUSSIA THUMBSUP EMOJI” — even from Junior! — given that we know the Family Business has wiped emails, shredded paper records, or simply kept communications to the phone instead of writing them down. But that was under a very different level of public scrutiny and legal pressure.

    It’s an interesting game, one where you wonder whether those lawyers truly know what they’re playing with.

  2. bmaz says:

    This super sekrit strategy to impeach Flynn as a witness is the oldest play in the book and is what is used on every CI or defendant that has flipped. It ain’t that effective if your witness is sandpapered smooth enough. This is their plan? Hahahahaha.

  3. John Forde says:

    Thanks for writing this EW. I have been wondering all day, what Mueller’s goal is. Is it to prove collaboration by proving Trump personally authorized the release of micro targeting info to the Russians?

  4. bmaz says:

    From the cited WaPo article:

    White House advisers have noted Flynn did not plead guilty to being a co-conspirator in any criminal scheme, which they argue shows he is not able to provide evidence of a larger conspiracy.

    Some legal experts said prosecutors could still rely on Flynn’s testimony to allege such a scheme. However, others said persuading a jury to charge a conspiracy that did not include a key witness would be more difficult.

    If Mueller opted not to charge him in a conspiracy, Van Gelder asked, “how much of a crime is it, really?”

    Do these people actually try criminal cases? This is just fucking stupid. No, it is really no problem whatsoever with the right testimony and structuring of the conspiracy indictment for the others.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        It’s December 27 and you’re on deadline: you run with whichever “third-party legal commentators” in your contact list will answer the phone or return emails when the first half-dozen calls went to voicemail or had an autoreply along the lines of “I’m in Aspen/Vermont/Florida/the Caribbean till Jan 2 so don’t fucking bother me.”

        (I’m sure that Biz Van Gelder has earned her bio, but seeking comment from senior lawyers not on retainer this week is a crapshoot, and Leonnig had to make do.)

  5. Kim Kaufman says:

    “What they’re not denying, however, is that Flynn attended meetings or otherwise knew of communications doing such things.”

    “doing such things”… or other things, perhaps? Isn’t what Flynn did with Turkey/Russia/Israel worse?

  6. gedouttahear says:

    Not only are trump’s lawyers outclassed (see Digby a couple of weeks back) it’s likely that trump and his junior boy have not been candid with their own lawyers. I suspect Mueller’s team has or will have a better idea of who did what when than the trump’s lawyers.

  7. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Thinking in broader terms, we still don’t have any inkling of what Papadopoulos provided to the investigation in exchange for a relatively gentle plea deal and extremely grateful lawyers, but we do know that Mueller’s team knew about him dumping his phone and FB account in a shambolic attempt to hide his convos with Svetlana Honeytrapska.

    Assuming some degree of shambles, Flynn Jr. is the unindicted dog who hasn’t been barking quite so loud for the past month.

  8. dc says:

    To me the key language in “Flynn will be unable to point to White House or campaign records turned over in the probe to bolster any claims of a criminal scheme” is “Turned over in the probe.”  All the emails and documents “turned over” were vetted and filtered by the campaign defense team.  We already know that there are relevant documents they chose not to “turn over” (like the McFarland “throw the election” email). In addition to undocumented events Flynn could corroborate (like the content of phone calls or meetings), this denial leaves open the possibility that Flynn will be able to provide or corroborate records that the Trump team decided not to turn over voluntarily.  They need to establish Flynn as a liar to refute the content of discussions, but it seems likely that there are additional damaging records we will find out about.

      • bmaz says:

        Seconded. Mueller has all kinds of stuff that even HPSCI and SSCI do not. The WH only knows about what they selectively turned over and what their toadies in Congress have informed them of. Mueller, irrespective of the final result, is working on a far different plane as to knowledge and evidence.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          Case in point: Papadopoulos thinking that he’d wiped his FB account and phone. Oops. And maybe that was an early signal to the higher-level players: don’t assume you’ve been able to withhold or destroy evidence, especially if a third party is involved.

          I suppose there may be stuff from the counter-intelligence side of the FBI investigation that’s harder to turn into admissible criminal evidence, but there are other things obtainable via subpoena (e.g. call logs from a phone company) that aren’t campaign/transition/WH records.

          • bmaz says:

            Yes, And, you’d be surprised, it is not that hard to turn it into admissible evidence if you have cooperators. None of this is new, been being done in drug and CI cases for a long time. There is a template, and this application is not necessarily unique.

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