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Flynn flipping is a major break for Mueller - and bad news for the next big target

Flynn flipping is a major break for Mueller - and bad news for the next big target
From CBC - December 2, 2017

Michael Flynn was a key player in Donald Trump's orbit, including his election campaign, his transition teamand, at least for a few days, in his White House.

All the more reason why the retired general will prove very valuable to the U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between Trump's presidential campaign andRussian election-meddlers.

Flynn, Trump's short-lived national security adviser, is the first senior official to cave to Robert Mueller's probe. He pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador last December.

It was part of a plea deal with Mueller's team as they pressure figures around president Trump to co-operate with their investigation.

With Flynn helping them, that pressure will be applied in one direction.

"Upwards," said Barak Cohen, a former federal prosecutor.

"They are going to take that information Flynn has provided, and they will keep going as high up the food chain as it gets," he said. "They wo not stop until they are satisfied they have reached as far as they reasonably can."

Flynn's co-operation not only suggests he has information Mueller's team finds crucial to the case, but that a pre-agreement sit-down called a "proffer of information" gave prosecutors enough confidence in Flynn's answers to warrant offering him a deal.

Flynn's guilty plea for lying to the FBIa felony that carries a maximum five-year sentenceis an "inflection point" in the case, Cohen said.

With Flynn now feeding information to prosecutors, "they are reaching a point where they are going to start involving more significant figures," including possible "dotted line" connections between Flynn and the president.

'Co-operate up'

Dan Richman, the Columbia University law professor and friend of former FBI director James Comey who leaked Comey's memo detailing conversations with Trump, said in an interview that "no reputable prosecutor" would accept a co-operatorthey have not already carefully vetted through debriefings.

So Flynn was likely sharing knowledge with Mueller's team before Friday's plea agreement.

"How long that would take, whether a number of days or weeks, is anyone's guess," Richman said.

'Bob Mueller is pursuing the evidence, he's pulling threads to see how it unravels, and General Flynn is the biggest thread to date' - Jeff Cramer, former U.S. federal prosecutor

Prosecutors, he said, generally agree to deals with informants who will "co-operate up," rather than to implicate subordinates. Depending on what evidence Flynn is illuminating, he said, "anyone who has had dealings with Flynn should now be reconsidering their position."

What Flynn can tell prosecutors includes details about campaign, transition and administration meetings; information about the nature of his talks with Russians and who in Trump's circledirected those contacts; and insight into the power structure inside a White House lacking a clear hierarchy of influence below the president.

Mueller's targets might include senior campaign advisers, transition team members and current White House top brass. And that could meanmembers of Trump'sfamily.

Major players in the Russia Investigation so far:

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