Let’s say you’re an ordinary prosecutor and you’re trying to expose Donald Trump for his crimes. Your first instinct would be to arrest whoever you’re most interested in trying to flip, in the hope of strong-arming that individual into cutting a deal. You would have arrested Michael Flynn first. He, being stubborn to the point of obstinate, would have decided to go down with the ship. You would have failed to get to Trump. That’s what makes Robert Mueller different.
For whatever reason, Mueller figured out that arresting Michael Flynn wasn’t going to be the most effective way to reach his goal. Instead he arrested an entirely different Trump-Russia player, Paul Manafort, who’s wealthy enough to believe that his expensive lawyers can get him off the hook. Manafort was never going to cut a deal, at least not any time soon. That made Manafort useless to Mueller – which is why Mueller made a point of arresting Manafort.
As we speak, Paul Manafort is locked away under house arrest. He had to beg to be let out for Thanksgiving. Sure, he still believes his fancy lawyers will get him off the hook in the end. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But his arrest allowed Michael Flynn, who is now dirt poor and begging for online help to pay his legal bills, looking at his own potential future. This allowed Flynn to figure out that he wouldn’t be able to put up a Manafort-style defense, not for himself and particularly not for his son Michael Flynn Jr – and it allowed Flynn to come to the conclusion on his own that he needed to cut a deal.
If Robert Mueller had started by arresting Michael Flynn, or even by arresting people who were willing to flip on Flynn, it might have spooked Flynn into stubbornly folding his arms and calling it a day. Instead, by using the misdirection of making an example out of Paul Manafort first, Mueller managed to get Flynn to come around on his own. It took an extra few weeks, but now Mueller has the cooperating witness he wanted all along – and it’s enough for him to destroy Donald Trump.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report