WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller has recommended that Michael Flynn be spared jail time, calling his cooperation with the Russia investigation “substantial.”
Prosecutors with Mueller’s team filed a memo on Tuesday night detailing the investigation’s sentencing recommendations for Flynn, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about reaching out to Russian government officials on President Donald Trump’s behalf.
The special counsel faced a Tuesday deadline in Flynn’s case to file the memo and provide a federal judge with a description of how valuable the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general has been to the probe. The deadline comes ahead of Flynn’s Dec. 18 sentencing and more than a year after his guilty plea.
Federal sentencing guidelines recommended between zero and six months in prison for Flynn.
The memo also cited his "record of military and public service” as another reason to be lenient.
The detailing of at least some of Flynn’s cooperation also comes as Trump has increasingly vented his anger at the probe - and at one of his former confidantes who cooperated with it.
This week, Trump lashed out at his former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, saying he is making up "stories" to get a reduced prison sentence after his latest guilty plea to lying to Congress detailed conversations he had with the then-Republican presidential candidate. In the same morning, Trump praised longtime confidante Roger Stone for saying he would "never testify against Trump," adding in his tweet: "Nice to know some people still have 'guts!'"
It's unclear if Trump will now turn his fury on Flynn, who Trump grew close to during the 2016 campaign and has drawn the president's sympathy since he came under investigation.
According to memos written by former FBI Director James Comey, Trump tried to protect Flynn by asking Comey to let the investigation into his false statements go. Trump has denied asking Comey to drop the investigation but that episode is among those under scrutiny by Mueller as he probes whether Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation.
Flynn's case has been a contrast to those of other Trump associates, who have criticized the Russia probe. Most notably, Trump former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, aggressively fought the investigation and is now facing the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence after his cooperation agreement recently fell apart over allegations that he had lied to investigators.
Stone has also waged a public campaign against Mueller.
But Flynn has largely remained out of the public eye, appearing only a handful of times in media interviews or campaign events, and he has strictly avoided criticizing the Mueller probe despite widespread encouragement from his supporters to go on the offensive.
He has instead spent considerable time with his family and worked to position himself for a post-conviction career.
Flynn's false statements stemmed from a Jan. 24, 2017, interview with the FBI about his interactions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's then-ambassador to the U.S., as the Obama administration was levying sanctions on the Kremlin in response to election interference. In court papers filed along with his plea deal, Flynn said that members of Trump's inner circle, including the president's son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner, were involved in, and at times directing, his actions in the weeks before Trump took office.
Flynn was forced to resign his post on Feb. 13, 2017, after news reports revealed that Obama administration officials had warned the Trump White House about Flynn's false statements.
The White House has said that Flynn misled officials— including Vice President Mike Pence — about the content of his conversations.
Flynn also admitted to making false statements about unregistered foreign agent work he performed for the benefit of the Turkish government.
Flynn was under investigation by the Justice Department for the work when he became national security adviser.