Protect Robert Mueller's Investigation
The guilty plea of former national security adviser Michael Flynn is the most stunning revelation yet in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. While the full extent of the case remains unknown, the plea gives a clear view of the strategy of special counsel Robert Mueller -- and makes it all the more imperative that he be allowed to continue his work without interference.
Flynn admitted that he lied to FBI investigators about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. According to the agreement, Flynn communicated with Kislyak in December 2016 to discuss delaying an upcoming vote in the United Nations to condemn Israel for settlement-building in the West Bank. This comes after allegations that members of Donald Trump’s inner circle had met with Russians connected to the Kremlin to discuss the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law sanctioning Russian officials thought to be involved in human-rights abuses.
The larger question, of course, is whether the Trump campaign colluded in any way with Russian efforts to influence the election. But Flynn's deal raises plenty of other questions: Did he lie about other details of his dealings with Kislyak and other Russians? Did he violate the Logan Act, which bans private citizens from carrying out unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments? Is Mueller also investigating charges that Flynn broke the law in his dealings with Turkey?
And then there is the issue of Flynn's cooperation, and whether he will implicate other members of the campaign or even the president himself. The only way to get answers is to allow Mueller to go forward unimpeded.
The worst scenario would be for Trump to pardon Flynn or fire Mueller (or, shockingly, both). There is a strong argument that Flynn’s plea will make that harder to do because it would be seen as such a blatant attempt at obstruction. But if the president can be said to have one consistent trait, it is a fondness for doing what people tell him he can't. In this case, Trump will have to resist the impulse -- or risk forcing Congress to act to ensure that the investigation proceeds.
--Editors: Tobin Harshaw, Michael Newman.
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