Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has flipped and struck a deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. What does that say about the direction of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election?
One word provides a powerful hint. It’s near the bottom of the Statement of Offense released by Mueller’s office Friday in the Flynn case. That word is “very.” It’s used in the phrase “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team.”
What it indicates is that Mr. Flynn will testify in court that a top transition official – “very senior” – directed him to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to try and defeat a UN vote condemning Israeli settlements in December 2016.
Who was that person? The circle at the top was small, centered on President-elect Trump and members of his family. All have denied such contact. All presumably are now aware that meddling in foreign affairs while someone else remains president is, at least technically, illegal.
But the December UN vote is only one smallish item of Mueller’s interest, after all.
What the use of the word means in a larger sense is that Mueller’s investigation has entered the White House and crept close to the Oval Office itself.
With Flynn, the special counsel may have acquired a witness who can explain and tie together who knew what, and when, about the known Russia contacts of Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, former campaign chief Paul Manafort, and others.
In that sense he’s a guide into unexplored territory.
“I’m pretty confident Flynn is singing like a bird to Mueller,” says Andy Wright, an associate professor at Savannah Law School and a founding editor of the legal blog Just Security.
IS JARED KUSHNER NEXT?
Mr. Kushner might be the next person affected. Circumstantial evidence hints he’s the person who gave Flynn the order to try to influence the UN vote. He’s the White House official tasked with trying to negotiate a Middle East peace deal. He’s traveled often to the region. On Friday, Bloomberg News reporter Eli Lake said other former transition officials had identified Kushner as the “very senior official” in question.
An ABC News report indicated, meanwhile, that Flynn is prepared to testify that in contacting the Russians he was acting at the behest of his higher boss, Donald Trump. But which contacts,…