Former national security adviser to President Trump and three-star Gen. Michael Flynn will not be going to prison.
The idea that prison was even a possible fate for such a longstanding American public servant, a 30+ year veteran, tells us a lot about the state of our criminal justice and law enforcement institutions right now. How could this have been considered for one moment? Even the two FBI officials who questioned him –- one, ironically, was Peter Strzok –- didn’t think he was trying to be deceptive.
At this writing, Mueller’s highly redacted sentencing memo on Flynn, in which he says Flynn was cooperative and recommends no prison time for him, has just been released. Right now, even the congressional oversight committees don’t know what’s hidden by all those heavy, black bars. But they have only a few weeks before Democrats take over Congress, so they’ll have to work fast if they want to exercise some due diligence.
But it’s already clear that we really do have a two-tiered system of justice. If appointing a special counsel was done to misdirect the country’s attention from the REAL Russian “collusion” --- involving Hillary Clinton and the DNC --- the strategy may be backfiring now. Of course, it’s working quite well on CNN, MSNBC and the like, where “journalists” ignore the lying and chicanery on Team Hillary just as completely as the special counsel does. But those of use who have been paying attention can see the double standard more clearly every day.
Victor Davis Hanson, in an excellent piece written shortly before Mueller’s report on Flynn came out, notes that both Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills likely lied to investigators about how much they knew concerning Hillary’s sneaky private email server. Even Peter Strzok thought they had not been truthful. But they got special treatment in a number of ways, including immunity from prosecution.
Hillary lied when she maintained that she had not sent classified material over her server, and she also destroyed over 30,000 emails that were under subpoena. Comey was wrong; there are plenty of “reasonable prosecutors” who would have jumped at the chance to take that case. She should have been charged with violating the Espionage Act and numerous other statutes, including obstruction of justice. But she has faced no criminal liability and isn’t likely to, unless Trump can find a permanent attorney general with a titanium spine.
There are other people in this cast of characters --- top officials like John Brennan and James Clapper --- who told boldfaced lies under oath and yet have not faced prosecution. Hanson’s piece does a great job of laying it all out. We’ve been through most of this over the past months, but if you’d like to refresh your memory (and get really steamed), it's here at the link. He also takes Mueller’s shameful strategy apart.
Imagine, knowing all this, what your reaction might have been if Mueller had recommended that Gen. Flynn serve prison time. In light of what some of the witnesses, notably Jerome Corsi, are saying now about being bullied to lie in service to the special counsel’s “narrative,” Mueller probably sensed that he’d better recommend going lightly on Flynn. Seeing that man sent to prison would be enough for a lot of people (me included) to grab pitchforks and march on Washington. With all the injustice we’ve seen, that would have been the red line in the sand.
But even though he won’t be going to prison, Flynn has been been put through hell. When two FBI agents came to see him just as he was settling into his new job at the White House, he probably had no idea he was in any legal jeopardy. Then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates had set this up by suggesting internally that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act. To use Comey’s “no reasonable prosecutor” test, nobody gets prosecuted for violating the Logan Act, though I can think of a few people, former Secretary of State John Kerry for one, who probably should be. It’s a very old law that was intended to stop people outside the administration from conducting foreign policy, which some of them still do all all the time. Besides, Flynn was part of an incoming administration; meeting with foreign officials as part of the transition was perfectly appropriate for him.
He met with the FBI officials without a lawyer present, so he must not have been advised that he should have one. He simply tried to answer their questions to the best of his recollection. But after that meeting, boy-oh-boy, did he need lawyers. To try to protect himself --- and, according to some reports, his son --- he had to sell his house and move in with relatives to pay for attorneys. And, of course, in pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, he lost his job as national security advisor.
He was also put through interview after interview, totaling 19. Imagine the stress of sitting down with the special counsel 19 times, having entered a guilty plea and knowing they could have you tossed into prison for getting one detail wrong. According to the sentencing memo, Flynn helped with two cases, the specifics of which are redacted: a criminal case not being handled by the Mueller probe (meaning it had nothing to do with Russian “collusion”), and another that dealt with meetings held by the Trump transition team with other countries, Russia included. Again, these were meetings that took place appropriately, after the election and during the transition, so prosecutors should keep their grubby paws away.
At least Flynn’s ordeal seems to be just about over now, and he can soon start trying to rebuild his fractured life. Though we haven’t seen the unredacted sentencing memo, it’s clear that they never found any evidence of “collusion” with Russia on his part, or he would indeed be facing prison.
Mark Penn echoed Victor Davis Hanson on Tuesday with his observation about the strategy Mueller appears to be using: that instead of getting people to “sing,” he’s getting them to plead guilty to things that can help him constructing a circumstantial case against the President in his final report. This is a gross misuse of the judicial process, building a case essentially out of fiction. Penn suggested that the fact that Flynn sat for 19 interviews means Mueller didn’t get what he wanted in the first 10.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was justifiably outspoken in his condemnation of the Mueller team, calling them “overzealous, media-inspired prosecutors” and “sick puppies.”
It’s really a shame that, in America of all places, we’ve been put into an adversarial relationship with our own government. The justice system has been weaponized for political purposes. FOX News analyst Gregg Jarrett has some advice for anyone being asked to talk with the FBI: Just don’t do it. Don’t talk to them --- certainly not without a lawyer.
We’ll have more soon about the specifics in the sentencing memo and what they reveal about the overall special counsel strategy, which looks increasingly disgusting. If you’d like to take a look at the memo itself, it’s at the link.