Yesterday, ABC News reported that a confidant of Michael Flynn said Flynn is prepared to testify that Donald Trump instructed him to contact Russian officials during the campaign. Later, ABC News was forced to correct the story.
It stated that its source “later clarified that during the campaign, Trump assigned Flynn and a small circle of other senior advisers to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other hot spots” not to contact Russian officials. “It was shortly after the election, that President-elect Trump directed Flynn to contact Russian officials on topics that included working jointly against ISIS.” (Emphasis added)
In other words, candidate-Trump acted as one would expect a candidate holding his substantive views about Russia to do. And president-elect-Trump acted as one would expect a president-elect holding his substantive views about Russia and ISIS to do.
ABC News issued the correction in an online story. Its television viewership was left to believe the erroneous original report.
Good faith error or wishful thinking? You decide.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post provided a breathless (literally, I would say) video by Amber Phillips about the Flynn plea (see below). Her thesis is that Robert Mueller allowed Flynn to plead way down to a relatively minor offense compared to what he’s been investigated for, and that Mueller almost certainly did so because Flynn offered him substantial testimony against others.
These are reasonable suppositions. However, because there is no suggestion by Mueller that Flynn committed a crime by talking to the Russians after the election, it’s highly unlikely that anyone else in Trump’s circle (or Trump himself) will be charged with such a crime.
So what did Flynn offer Mueller in exchange for his cooperation? Perhaps testimony that contradicts statements others have made to investigators.
Which others? I don’t know. But for what it’s worth, I’m guessing that the person with the most to worry about is Jared Kushner, of whom Flynn is said not to be fond.
UPDATE: Some observers may be overstating the amount of leverage Mueller had over Flynn. President Trump’s power to pardon the retired General or to commute his sentence may have reduced Mueller’s leverage.
The main source of Mueller’s leverage was probably financial. Flynn is said to be running out of funds with which to defend himself and his son from the wrath of Robert Mueller.
JOHN adds: I think the reason Mueller charged Flynn only with relatively petty offenses is that his investigation hasn’t turned up anything more substantial. My guess is, it’s as simple as that. I agree that any cooperation Flynn renders will relate to statements made by others to the FBI, since there was never any crime to investigate in the first place. It is remarkable that the Democrats have, so far, gotten away with this.