At some unknown time today, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will release a sentencing memo – to the judge and to the public – in which he’ll make his recommendation about how long Michael Flynn should spend in prison. Based on the anticipation this morning on social media, I can tell that some of you are about to be very disappointed in how long Flynn’s recommended sentence is going to be.
Almost exactly a year ago, Robert Mueller allowed Michael Flynn to plead guilty to a single charge of lying to the FBI, in exchange for Flynn providing all the testimony and evidence he could against bigger fish like Donald Trump. This particular criminal charge comes with a sentencing guideline of just six months in prison. If Flynn has been particularly helpful, Mueller could recommend even less than that. So why does a traitor like Flynn get off so easy?
This is simply how cooperating plea deals work. Michael Flynn didn’t want to sell out Donald Trump and everyone else involved. He reluctantly did it so that he could avoid a long prison sentence, and so that his son Michael Flynn Jr could avoid prison altogether. There are two reasons Robert Mueller gave Flynn such an “easy” deal. One was that Flynn was the first big name to flip. The other was that Mueller must have known that Flynn was sitting on really useful testimony and evidence against Trump. Because this is, entirely, about taking down Donald Trump.
So when the news today ends up being that Michael Flynn only got something like six months, and that he only pleaded guilty to lying, Donald Trump’s base will mistakenly celebrate it. They’ll say “See, there was no collusion, and this investigation was a waste of time. $40 million to put a guy in prison for a few months.” But that’s because they’re clueless and delusional. Flynn only got the more serious charges dropped because he sold out Trump. The only way today could represent good news for Trump would be if Mueller announced that Flynn was going to prison for a very long time, because that would mean that Flynn never did properly give Trump up. Trump’s worst nightmare today is that Flynn gets a really lenient sentence, because that means Flynn buried Trump.
Finally, today’s Michael Flynn sentencing memo isn’t just about a sentencing recommendation. It’s a huge opportunity for Robert Mueller to publicly incriminate Donald Trump by spelling out the Trump-related crimes that Flynn committed, and by spelling out the things that Flynn ratted out Trump for. By tomorrow you’ll probably have forgotten about Flynn’s sentence, and you’ll be far more focused on what Trump just got hit with in this memo.
Just to make sure there’s no confusion, Robert Mueller is simply filing a piece of paper with the court today, which he’s also making public. That could happen at any time of day, though probably within court hours. There is no court hearing today. The actual sentencing hearing, in which the judge will look at Mueller’s recommendation and hand Flynn a sentence accordingly, is set for December 18th.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report