The Flynn Sentencing Memo

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

A lot of energy was spent by the media in anticipation of the sentencing memo form General Michael Flynn which was filed in court yesterday. Such memos from the Office of the Special Counsel often offer insight into the state of the Mueller investigation, and what Mueller knows.

Not this time.

The heavily redacted documents provide no such insight.

The Special Counsel’s office notes that Flynn has been helpful not only to its ongoing Trump-Russia investigation, but for another unknown criminal investigation as well.  But we don’t know the extent of his involvement or how he helped in either of those things.

In other words, not much there….

…unless you read between the lines. And that might spell trouble for Jared Kushner.

There is a portion of the memo covering “interactions between the transition team and Russia” that is completely redacted, leaving some bread crumbs for speculation. Keeping in mind that the memo specifically references the transition, it is helpful to remember what we know about Flynn’s activities during that time period. Reuters touched on the issue in May 2017:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters…

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

A couple of weeks later, the Washington Post reported this:

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

We also know that in January 2017 – prior to Trump’s inauguration – Erik Prince (who worked closely with Michael Flynn during the transition) was dispatched to Seychelles for a clandestine meeting with Kirill Dmitriev to discuss a back channel line of communication between Russia and the Trump administration. That meeting was arranged and attended by George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, and who is also cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

Given that one of Flynn’s main tasks during the transition period was to set up back channel communications between Trump and his Russian handlers that would bypass US intelligence services, it is very likely that the redacted portions of the sentencing memo are related to that endeavor. If so, Jared Kushner has reason to be very concerned.