Back in late July, a series of events came together to create the strong impression that Michael Flynn was cutting a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That obviously did not end up happening. But now that Flynn has finally cut a deal, new details are leaking out that place the events of late July in context, and create the even stronger appearance that Flynn and Mueller were coordinating on some level back then. It may matter greatly when it comes to the evidence that Flynn can now provide.
Back on July 27th, Robert Mueller suddenly arrested Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. We say “suddenly” because Mueller didn’t even have a grand jury or indictment or criminal charge in place at the time of the arrest. That meant something happened that caused him to decide he immediately had to get Papadopoulos into custody, even though he hadn’t been targeting Papadopoulos up to that point. Even more strangely, Papadopoulos was arrested for a lie he’d told to the FBI all the way back in January.
Now the attorney for Papadopoulos is explaining in a Politico article that even he was surprised by the timing of the arrest (link), suggesting that it could easily have come earlier or later. Something must have happened in late July to cause Mueller to realize that Papadopoulos’ statements in January were false. The most likely explanation is that someone in Trump’s orbit told Mueller as much. When you look at what was going on with Michael Flynn during that exact same timeframe, its sets off some bright flashing lights.
Six days before Papadopoulos was arrested, the Associated Press reported that Flynn was resuming his political consulting work and “moving on” from the Trump-Russia saga. At the time, Flynn was in danger of being arrested for his role in the scandal at any time, and wasn’t remotely in position to be making major career moves. This sounded a lot like a guy who was preparing to cut a plea deal that would allow him to go free.
That was also the week in which Donald Trump suddenly hired Anthony Scaramucci out of nowhere, in what ended up being nothing more than a huge media spectacle that lasted a whopping eleven days. It raises questions about whether Trump might have thought Flynn was about to flip on him, and wanted to create a distraction by hiring the larger-than-life Scaramucci, which he knew would create conflict with several of his existing senior advisers.
In any case, Michael Flynn never did finalize a plea deal with Robert Mueller back in July. Or if he did, then something subsequently went wrong and the deal was scuttled before the media got a whiff of it. By the way, The Guardian is reporting this week that Flynn’s plea deal requires him to agree to wear a wire. This is an utterly useless provision at this late date, when everyone knows Flynn has changed sides. But it sure sounds like the kind of provision that would have been included in the deal back in July.
So let’s say that Mueller and Flynn did begin working together back in July, before it fell apart for whatever reason. Was Flynn the one who gave up Papadopoulos, leading to his hasty arrest? Was Flynn wearing a wire this summer? If so, who was he talking to? We know Donald Trump was reaching out to him and telling him to “stay strong.” Did Flynn agree to have his phone tapped? We don’t yet know the answers to any of this. For now, all we know is that there was a whole lot more going on back in late July than we know about.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report