The Russia investigation might not be at an end—there are still witnesses to be pulled in from of the grand jury, whole areas of the investigation that seem barely exploded, so much where that seems left to do—but it does seem to be moving to the endgame. Announcements over the last day suggest that details of the investigation that have long been held close to Robert Mueller’s chest are about to become public in a way that could end speculation, and provide a preview of his final report.
Months after the announcement that Michael Flynn had signed a cooperative agreement with the investigation in which he would plead guilty to perjury in exchange for withholding other charges, the special counsel has announced that he’s prepared to recommend sentencing for Flynn. This certainly indicates that Mueller has heard all that he needs to hear from Donald Trump’s former national security advisor … though none of what he’s heard has been made public.
Reuters reports that sentencing recommendations for Flynn will be made on Tuesday, ahead of a court appearance scheduled for December 18. Flynn’s single guilty plea of lying to the FBI could need him as much as five years in prison, but it’s expected that he could get no jail time at all—or close to it—should the special counsel feel he’s been honest and complete in the information he provided. Considering that Flynn was up to his neck in multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador, illegal lobbying for Turkey, and even a scheme to kidnap a US resident and turn him over for almost certain execution, that’s a pretty extraordinary deal. Hopefully, whatever Flynn has been talking about for the last year, it’s been worth it. The fact that Mueller has at several times in the past asked for Flynn’s sentencing to be delayed, certainly suggests he’s been talking about something.
It’s unlikely that the sentencing proposal for Flynn will illuminate everything he has been sharing with the special counsel. However, this will be one of the first chances to look into what has been one of the most opaque, and oddly quiet, areas of the investigation. By the time Flynn is sentenced, it will have been a full year since his plea deal, and in all that time nothing at all has leaked about his discussions with the special counsel. Ending the conversation with Flynn would certainly appear to represent a milestone for the investigation.
And, as Yahoo News reports, the document on Flynn is just one of the boxes that could be checked this week as Mueller brings parts of the investigation to completion. On Friday, the special counsel’s office will release public memos concerning both Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Mueller has described this action as “tying up loose ends,” and now it seems the public will finally learn if all those ends will form a net around Donald Trump.
The memo related to Manafort has been expected since last week when the special counsel announced that he considered Manafort to be in breach of his plea agreement. According to Mueller, Trump’s campaign chief lied repeatedly to investigators even after he had made his bargain to provide information. And Manafort kept open a joint defense agreement with Trump’s legal team, meaning that everything he was asked, and everything he gave as an answer, was going back to Trump. Unless that was an intentional act, it means that Trump knew the thrust of the investigation in advance, as well as getting insight into what the special counsel already knew along with what Manafort was providing.
The memo will describe just how the investigators believe that Manafort has breached his agreement, including the areas he lied about. It had been expected that this document would be filed under seal, but Mueller has let it be know that this document will be public. That certainly indicates that he has little left to hide, at least on the Manafort front. He’s not just unconcerned about others seeing what Manfort was saying, he wants the public to be able to play along.
Similarly, Mueller will file a memo on Friday regarding the statements of Michael Cohen. That document will apparently detail more of the testimony that Cohen has provided concerning Donald Trump’s ongoing, though frequently denied, real estate actions in Russia during the campaign period. It may also include more information on whether or not Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting between Russian operatives and Trump’s campaign team. Indications are that this memo will also be open to the public.
The fact that these two large chunks of the case are being put forward, and that Flynn is being sentenced, indicates that on those points at least, Manafort really is down to tying up those ends. It may also indicate that there is no one left to indict whose case depends entirely on the testimony of Cohen or Flynn.
But it’s certainly not the end of the investigation. Roger Stone should not be breathing any easier. Neither should Jerome Corsi or Aaron Nevins. Neither should Donald Trump Jr. Or Ivanka. There are still big areas of the investigation that still seem wide open—including one reluctant “mystery witness” who Mueller is about to take to court for the fifth time in order to compel their testimony before the grand jury. It hardly seems that the special counsel would be going through that much trouble if the testimony wasn’t critical to some aspect of his case. Plus, somewhere out in the wings, is the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who was given limited immunity in exchange for testimony about mumble mumble mumble. Mueller definitely got into money laundering and financial crimes when it came to Manafort and Rick Gates. Whether he intends to delve into Trump’s business beyond the Moscow real estate attempts is still a big unknown.
The Russia investigation isn’t over. But some of the threads Robert Mueller has been following seem to be coming to an end. And it would seem he’s going out of his way to make the information produced by those threads as public as possible.