President Trump has said Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finished interviewing White House witnesses and reviewing White House documents and should be ready soon to admit there is little if any evidence of Trump colluding with Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
But, according to a story in The Washington Post that depends entirely on anonymous sources, if something does happen to Trump and it resulted from testimony from Michael Flynn, who served as national security adviser for the first 18 days of the Trump administration, then the president will unroll a plan now being put in place to attack Flynn.
Trump will order his team to “cast … Flynn as a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of wrongdoing, according to three people familiar with the strategy,” the Post’s Carol Leonnig reported on Wednesday.
“The approach would mark a sharp break from Trump’s previously sympathetic posture toward Flynn, whom he called a ‘wonderful man’ when Flynn was ousted from the White House in February.”
Leonnig wrote that Trump and his advisers are confident “Flynn does not have any evidence that could implicate the president or his White House team.” The president’s lawyers say Flynn will not be able to point to White House or campaign records turned over in the probe to support any claims he might make of a criminal scheme.
“None of those records suggest a conspiracy by Trump or his inner circle to improperly work with Russians to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, according to people who have reviewed the documents.”
Moreover, she wrote, Trump still may choose to pardon Flynn. “I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” the president said on Dec. 15. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”
Flynn’s brother, Joseph, has asked the president to issue a pardon, and “some of Flynn’s family members appear to be counting on Trump to act.”
But since Flynn’s cooperation agreement with prosecutors was made public earlier this month and since his proposed sentence of zero to six months is considered light, the administration “has been strategizing how to neutralize him in case the former national security adviser does make any claims.”
Some, such as liberal attorney Alan Dershowitz, say the Flynn plea “may be a show of weakness on the part of the special counsel rather than a sign of strength” because the crime he pleaded to bears so little resemblance to what is being investigated by the Mueller team.
Still others have pointed out that since Flynn pleaded guilty to a crime other than conspiracy, it means he can’t meaningfully provide evidence of a larger conspiracy.
But Leonnig insisted that Flynn being the most senior member of Trump’s team to be providing information to the Mueller team and the lenient plea agreement he received suggests he has lots of information to share.
The tack the White House aides have come up with, according to Leonnig, is not unfamiliar. Flynn was fired from the Trump White House for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about contacts with the Russians and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about meetings with the Russian ambassador that were legal on their own.
“’He said it himself: He’s a liar,’ said one person helping craft the strategy who was granted anonymity to describe private conversations.”
It seems plausible Trump will claim Flynn is lying if Flynn’s testimony casts Trump in a bad light … because Trump doesn’t believe he is guilty of anything regarding collusion. It also seems plausible if Trump accuses Flynn of being a liar it will be because Trump thought Flynn lied.
But no secret meetings needed to be held to discuss this. “It’s pretty predictable,” a former federal prosecutor tells Leonnig late in the story. “It’s Defense Strategy 101.”