As Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s noose keeps tightening around the White House, President Trump’s lawyers are preparing their strategy for the defense of their embattled client.
In a new insight into how they’re planning to respond to the results of Mueller’s investigation, The Washington Post has published an article providing some informed speculation about how Trump’s attorneys will depict former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn once his testimony regarding the inner workings of the Trump campaign and transition apparatus is revealed.
Despite President Trump’s documented efforts to shield Flynn from investigation as confirmed by former FBI Director James Comey’s congressional testimony stating that Trump tried to get him go easy on Flynn, saying “I hope you can let this go,” the President’s lawyers plan on depicting Flynn as a self-serving liar who would say anything to protect himself.
While that description could just as easily be applied to the President himself, it demonstrates the depths of fear within the White House about what Flynn could reveal to Mueller, despite their claims that Trump has nothing to fear because there is nothing for the former National Security Advisor to reveal.
The leniency of the plea agreement that Flynn agreed to with Mueller’s team suggests otherwise since the terms were fairly favorable towards Flynn despite the severity of the accusations against him, a situation that usually only occurs when something of great value has been offered in exchange for a reduced charge.
Attacking the credibility of an informer who has exchanged damning evidence in return for a lighter sentence is a time-honored legal defense tactic, but Flynn’s status as an admitted liar about his meetings with the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey Kisliak, makes it a practically mandatory defense in this case. Of course, Trump himself has so little credibility after a full year of dispensing falsehoods while he’s been in office that the lack of trustworthiness of both parties may cancel each other out.
With written or electronic records directly implicating the Trump campaign in any possible collusion with Russia yet to surface, Flynn’s credibility will be key to the outcome of the investigation. Last week, Flynn’s brother sent Trump a public entreaty calling for the President to pardon his brother in light of the allegations of FBI bias that the administration has been lobbing lately. Yet, given the interlocking investigations by both Mueller and NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and the fact that Trump can only pardon federal crimes, not state convictions, a Trump pardon may not be of much use to Flynn.
Trump also has to contend with the fact that Flynn has most likely already told Mueller’s team everything that he knows since plea deals are rarely granted until after the subject has delivered the goods. Hence the emphasis on undermining Flynn’s believability.
Mueller was very crafty in drafting the plea agreement with Flynn, including just enough information to justify the guilty plea, but not enough to tip off Trump’s legal team as to what else he learned from the former National Security Advisor. Whatever Mueller does next, you can be sure that he will have thought through his move carefully and has planned for the expected pushback on the credibility of his witnesses.
All Trump’s lawyers can do at this point is wait for that next move and react.