Accuracy in Media

We don’t know what Michael Flynn told Robert Mueller as part of his cooperation to reduce his own sentence after pleading guilty of lying to the FBI at the outset of the Trump administration.

But the mainstream media is salivating over the possibilities.

“The biggest story of the sentencing document filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Michael Flynn is what’s not in it,” wrote CNN’s Chris Cillizza in “The 1 sentence in Michael Flynn’s sentencing document that should really scare Donald Trump” on the CNN website.

“There are large swaths of redactions, making it hard to see exactly what Mueller is doing – and what specific role the Trump administration’s former national security adviser is playing in it all.

“But there’s a single sentence in the 13-page document that should send shivers down the spine of President Donald Trump and everyone in his inner circle. It’s this: ‘The defendant deserves credit for accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government.’”

Cillizza writes that readers should “pay attention to those last words: ‘Substantially assisting the government.’”

And then remember that Flynn is the only one of Trump’s seven associates who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the Mueller probe “who bridges the divide between Trump’s campaign, the transition and the presidency.”

It has been more than a year since he pleaded guilty, and
“for you calendar buffs out there …” Flynn has “met with the special counsel’s team 19 – yes, 19! – times during that period.”

Slate makes similar leaps in “Robert Mueller’s Bigger Collusion Picture Is Starting to Emerge” by John Reed.

“Despite the insistence of the president and his surrogates, Mueller still has plenty to reveal, and a lot of it will get to the heart of the question of whether any Trump officials colluded with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election,” Reed wrote.

Actually, probably not, according to a piece on the Fox News website, entitled “Flynn sentencing memo leaves Trump-Russia collusion questions unanswered,” by Hans von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation  

von Spakovsky writes that it’s possible Flynn provided information about collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign.

“But the wording of the addendum makes it seem unlikely,” he wrote. “The addendum states that Flynn provided information about communications between the Trump presidential transition team and the Russian government, not the Trump campaign and the Russian government. That implies that the information Flynn provided concerns communications occurring after the election.”

The probe, he points out, is “supposed to be whether Trump campaign officials conspired with Russian officials prior to the November 2016 election to engage in unlawful interference in the election.”

Trump’s “history here is worth remembering,” Reed wrote for Slate. “The president has long wanted to do business in Russia, he has a long history of traveling to the country as a high-profile American, and there have been a large number of people linked to the intelligence services and Mafia buying his and his family members’ real estate properties and working for him.”

Cillizza can hardly contain himself. He points out Flynn is helping with “several” ongoing investigations – a criminal investigation of unknown origin and focus; the special counsel Russia collusion investigation and another of unknown origin and focus.

“That’s a BIG deal,” he wrote. “Instead of a single investigation into Russian interference, there are actually (at least) three investigations being pursued, to which Flynn has been of material aid. Three!”

The sentencing memo, with its mention of multiple investigations and “substantial assistance,” is, James Hohmann writes for the Washington Post, “a reminder of how many shoes might still drop.”

He then tries to conflate sentences to create confusion. “Tantalizingly, Mueller teases that the ‘defendant has provided substantial assistance in a criminal investigation.’ Then there are 22 fully reacted lines of text. That is in addition to the special counsel’s probe of ‘any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump.”

The Trump-Russia investigation is a counterintelligence probe, not a criminal one.

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