Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Michael Flynn memo from Mueller investigators suggests Jeff Sessions and other members of Trump Transition Team could be in "deep trouble"

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions
Recent soul-rattling developments in the Robert Mueller investigation produced headlines over the weekend such as "Trump implicated in two felonies." That is big news, of course, and it came from Mueller's court filing last Friday on former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. If you have strong ties to Alabama, as we do, the most intriguing news might have come three days earlier when Mueller released filings about former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The Flynn sentencing memo suggests the Mueller probe could be taking a south-bound turn, in the direction of former Trump attorney general and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

An article at lawandcrime.com -- titled "Here is what could be under some of those redactions in the Flynn memo" -- points a finger heavily in Sessions' direction. According to reporter Ronn Blitzer, much of the hidden material clearly refers to members of the Trump Transition Team, and that gets into Sessions territory. Prominent members of the Transition Team included Sessions and his former chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, along with Michael Flynn. Blitzer writes:

The release of the heavily redacted sentencing memo that Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s office filed in the case of Michael Flynn has had the political world abuzz, not just over what was revealed in the memo, but what was not. Pages worth of text were blacked out, leaving people to guess what they’re about, but a look at context—and not-too-distant history—may shed some light on the mystery.

Page 3 of the memo’s addendum includes the following sentence: “The Defendant assisted the SCO’s investigation on a range of issues, including interactions between officials in the Presidential Transition Team and Russia, [REDACTED].”

The next paragraph is under the subheading Interactions Between the Transition Team and Russia. The last three lines or so of that paragraph are blacked out with redactions.

Clearly, some of this hidden information has to do with members of the Trump transition team. Now, as Law and Crime Network legal analyst Linda Kenney Baden said in a segment Wednesday afternoon, “When you give substantial cooperation or substantial assistance, you’re not giving it to get the person that’s underneath you, you’re getting the person that’s above you.”

Who on the Transition Team was most likely to have had interactions with Russian officials -- and was high-level enough that Flynn would have known about them? Blitzer provides insight:

In that same segment, former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi named one person who was on that transition team who fits the bill.

“That filing is incredibly telling. There are a lot of red flags and loud gongs that suggest that the president of the United States and other senior officials are in deep trouble, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

In a separate statement to Law and Crime, Rossi specified that he was referring to the question of, “Did Sessions lie and omit contacts with the Russians that Flynn knows about[?]”

The now-former Attorney General had recused himself from the Russia investigation due to his connection with the Trump campaign, but recall that he was also accused of covering up his own contacts with Russia. During his Attorney General confirmation hearing, Sessions said he did not have any contacts with Russian officials. It later came out that he had meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. Sessions later said that the meetings were in the context of his role as a Senator, and had nothing to do with the Trump campaign. Former officials said otherwise, telling the Washington Post that intelligence revealed that Sessions and Kislyak discussed Trump’s policies on Russia and U.S.-Russia relationships under a Trump administration.

If Flynn told Mueller’s office about other communications that Sessions may have had during the transition period, that would certainly fit the bill for a higher-level official’s conduct that Mueller would not want public at this time.

USA Today, in a piece titled "Michael Flynn re-emerges as a major witness in Robert Mueller inquiry -- and at least two others," also says the Flynn documents have ominous tones for members of the Transition Team. Write Kevin Johnson and Bart Jansen:

Mueller's conclusions, legal analysts said, probably served as a blunt warning to members of the administration who worked closely with the national security adviser and were consulted on his Russian contacts, specifically involving Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 
Flynn's cooperation was secured last year as part of his guilty plea to lying to the FBI in part about his pre-inaugural contacts with Kislyak related to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign. 
"The message that this sends, given Flynn's central role in the transition (to the Trump administration), is that if transition members are not fully lawyered-up yet, they should do so now," said Ilene Jaroslaw, a former federal prosecutor who once worked closely with Mueller's top aides in the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office. "This document, even though it is heavily redacted, speaks louder than any public statement or press conference could ever accomplish."

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