Considering the implications of Michael Flynn’s guilty plea.
The first onetime member of President Donald Trump’s White House has been charged with and pleaded guilty to a crime stemming from interactions with Russia. And depending upon whom you ask, Michael Flynn’s plea deal either signals doom for the Trump administration or is a good sign about the lack of a case being pieced together by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mostly, though, the plea deal leaves plenty of big, open questions that will determine which side of that debate is right. Below are four of them.
What does Flynn even know?
There is no question more central to this debate — and, right now, to the entire Russia investigation. Whether you think the plea deal was appropriate, a good deal or a bad deal, the most significant thing about it is that it signals Flynn is cooperating. And it’s likely his cooperation is far-reaching.
“The plea is significant not so much for itself, but for its value as an investigative tool,” said Jack Sharman, who served as special counsel to the House Financial Services Committee during the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton. “The special counsel now has an ally who understands that he will only get a benefit if he ‘cooperates’ with the investigation and that the meaning of ‘cooperation’ is entirely within the control of the prosecutors.”
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Sharman added that “to have value for the pleading defendant, his or her cooperation needs to be robust — no half-measures [on] anything.”
It’s clear Flynn was on his heels here, as reported Friday. And liberals are fantasizing that Flynn is spilling all kinds of secrets about potential collusion with Russia and God-knows-what-else. But he can only share that information if he has it.
Trump undoubtedly had a personal affinity for Flynn and seemed to trust him implicitly. But to suggest Flynn knew something incriminating is to believe that there was something incriminating at all and that Flynn was party to it. And depending upon whom you ask, the light charges Flynn pleaded to Friday might signal that there wasn’t much there.
Here’s how the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy put it:
“Understand: If Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador had evinced the existence of a quid pro quo collusion arrangement — that the Trump administration would ease or eliminate…