Last year, former FBI Director James Comey confirmed that there was an active federal investigation into President Donald Trump’s team over its ties to Russia. In the time since, the president has relentlessly sought to insist that he is not personally under investigation — but the evidence keeps stacking up against that increasingly fraught attempt at splitting hairs.
This week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed his sentencing memo for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who’s pleaded guilty to lying to authorities about his own Russian contacts and subsequently cooperated in their investigative efforts to the point of Mueller recommending little to no jail time. In contrast, former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos recently reported for a two week prison sentence over similar charges.
Although elsewhere, the president — via the “Individual 1” identifier — keeps popping up in Russia investigation related court filings, the full extent of whatever Flynn has helped with was hidden under a hefty weight of redactions.
CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin explored what this all might mean this week:
‘I was surprised, at least, that so much of the Flynn document was blacked out because it apparently relates to continuing investigations… That tells me, at least, that this investigation is not over. We have been talking about it as if it’s wrapping up, as if it’s about to be done. If it was about to be done, there would be no reason to black out information about a continuing investigation… All of this suggests an active criminal investigation that is increasingly focused on the president.’
The president finally participated in that investigation recently, capping off months of negotiations over a possible sit-down with the president’s team by submitting written answers to questions from the special counsel.
He’s mostly ignored the Flynn sentencing, having apparently long dismissed his former ally — although that could come back to bite him.
Meanwhile, he’s continued to carry on with his campaign to delegitimize the Russia investigation as if he most definitely has something to hide. He’s targeted another former ally who’s chosen to cooperate with authorities, Michael Cohen.
The lawyer implicated the president in his illegal hush money scheme meant to silence women who’d had affairs with Trump. More recently, he pleaded guilty to lying to authorities about Trump Organization efforts to put up a building in Moscow that was so intertwined with the country that President Vladimir Putin was going to get a penthouse.
That project continued behind the scenes until mid-2016, when Trump had secured the GOP nomination for president.
The president has defended himself by insisting it was all “very legal and very cool” — suggesting he’s got nothing when it comes to launching a substantive defense to whatever Flynn has shared with authorities.
Mueller has proven his determination to uncover the truth, just recently declaring that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had misled prosecutors and thereby broken his own plea agreement. The D.C. judge on that case set a Friday deadline for explanatory court filings from the special counsel.
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