Facing mounting legal vulnerabilities, Flynn turned to a deal

 In U.S.
The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips talks about what likely caused President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to flip on his old boss and cooperate with the Mueller investigation. (Jason Aldag, Amber Phillips/The Washington Post)

When President Trump’s former national security adviser sat down with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, the veteran battlefield general was a vulnerable man.

Michael Flynn faced the threat of prosecution for a mounting series of lies and omissions, including about his talks with the Russian ambassador, his private consulting work at the direction of the Turkish government and payments he received from Russian-backed groups. He felt distant from Trump, with whom he once enjoyed a strong bond.

Flynn, who had spent most of his Army career soldiering in Afghanistan and other front lines far from home, also faced another painful reality, according to three people familiar with his plea negotiations: that his son also was in danger of criminal charges.

At some point this fall, Mueller’s team made Flynn a limited-time offer: Come in and make your best case about why you should not be prosecuted, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential talks.

A whirl of behind-the-scenes negotiations ended Friday with Flynn finalizing a cooperation deal and walking out of court with a single count of lying to the FBI.

He scored what several experts called a highly favorable plea agreement that spares him of many of the criminal charges he could have faced and, for now, leaves his son untouched. In exchange, Flynn agreed to share all he knows about the president and his aides with Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The deal came as a searing conclusion to what Flynn called Friday “many months of false accusations of ‘treason’ and other outrageous acts.” It hints at the enormous pressure he was under to cooperate.

“Those in Flynn’s orbit should be terrified by today’s development,” said Stephen A. Miller, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor who has specialized in corruption cases. “A structural plea like this is more ominous for President Trump and others than one where the book was thrown at Flynn. Today’s deal signals that Flynn is being rewarded for cooperation deemed highly valuable by Mueller.”

White House attorney Ty Cobb said in a statement that “nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

“The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion,” Cobb added.

Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony, Flynn’s lawyers, declined to comment. A lawyer for Flynn’s son, Barry Coburn, also declined to comment.

Flynn was in Mueller’s crosshairs for months. During a voluntary interview with FBI agents a few days into the new administration, Flynn denied having talked about some of the topics that he discussed during the transition with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to court filings.

The Washington Post reported in February that Flynn had discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia with Kislyak in that December call. The Post also reported that then-acting attorney general Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of the contacts.

Flynn was then forced to resign.

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