Russia investigation: Flynn in the hot seat
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation has spawned a new guessing game in Washington,” said Katie Bo Williams in TheHill.com. When will Michael Flynn be indicted? In the latest sign that the former national security adviser is in serious legal jeopardy, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were offered up to $15 million by Turkish officials in December 2016 to forcibly remove Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from his home in rural Pennsylvania an d deliver him to Turkey, where he is considered an enemy of the government. Flynn’s lawyer denies the claims, but Mueller’s team has reportedly questioned at least four individuals about the plot, which was allegedly discussed after Flynn had been tapped to serve in President Trump’s incoming administration.
Mueller and his team “are no strangers to prosecutorial hardball,” said Randall Eliason in The Washington Post. The possible involvement of Flynn Jr. in the kidnapping plot gives them a “juicy carrot to dangle in front of the elder Flynn: Plead guilty and testify against others, and we’ll go easy on your son.” Given what Flynn likely knows about the inner dealings of the Trump campaign, “that prospect has to make other potential targets of Mueller’s inquiry extremely uneasy.” Let’s set aside for a moment whether Flynn might cooperate with Mueller’s probe, said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. The allegations involving Turkey and Gulen are shocking in their own right. “That a presidential national security adviser would sell his influence to a foreign government so quickly and cheaply is a very big deal.”
Meanwhile, contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia are coming into focus—and members of Trump’s inner circle may have been involved, said Sharon LaFraniere in The New York Times. We now know that Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was in contact with top campaign officials after Russian intermediaries offered him “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Those officials included Stephen Miller, now a senior White House adviser, who was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team. Investigators have also questioned Sam Clovis, cochairman of Trump’s campaign, said Mark Hosenball and John Walcott in Reuters.com. It was Clovis who praised Papadopoulos for his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump surrogates and Russian officials. “The ultimate question Mueller is after is whether candidate Trump and then President-elect Trump knew of the discussions,” one person familiar with the investigation said. For now, at least, “that is still just a question.”