A single-page document filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court Tuesday afternoon could spell bad news for Donald Trump, according to legal experts who say that the simple court filing indicates that the investigation into collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign is likely to carry on for months.
In the filing, Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller requests another two-month delay before sentencing is passed on Michael Flynn, the former general who was a top Trump campaign adviser and was later appointed Trump’s national security adviser — only to be fired after just 23 days, ostensibly for lying to Trump transition officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
But on December 1, Flynn entered a guilty plea, admitting that he lied to FBI investigators about a conversation with Kislyak concerning sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia in the final days of the Barack Obama administration. The sanctions were in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — interference designed to help Trump win the presidency according to U.S. intelligence assessments.
As part of Flynn’s plea deal — he could have been facing much more serious charges — he agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into how the Trump campaign may have cooperated with the clandestine Russian election-tampering operation.
According to the document filed by Mueller and signed off by Flynn’s attorneys, the 60-day delay before sentencing Flynn is necessary “due to the status of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
According to Russia investigation expert Natasha Bertrand of Atlantic Monthly magazine, “Flynn promised to cooperate, and under the plea agreement, sentencing would be delayed until that is over.” In other words, Flynn is still in the process of providing Mueller with information or testimony against other figures under investigation in the Russia collusion probe.
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman, who now specializes in assisting clients who are under government investigation, told MSNBC that the delay signals that Mueller will soon issue new indictments in the Russia case.
“This is not good news for Donald Trump. What they are looking to do is bring a major indictment in which Flynn is going to be one of the star witnesses,” Ackerman said. “What Flynn wants to do is get as many brownie points as he can, so when he goes to a sentencing judge, he can say that he went all out, he testified for the government, he testified truthfully, and as a result of his testimony there were a number of convictions.”
The request to delay Flynn’s sentencing comes one day after the New York Times published a set of nearly 50 questions, including 13 questions directly relating to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. The questions, the Times reported, were among those that Mueller planned to ask once Trump finally agreed to be questioned by Mueller’s investigators.
But Trump has been reluctant to answer questions under oath from Mueller, and his legal team reportedly has strongly advised him against talking to the Special Counsel, who served as FBI director from 2001 to 2013.
On Tuesday evening, however, the Washington Post reported that during a meeting in March to discuss terms of a Trump interview, Mueller threatened Trump’s lawyers that he could issue a subpoena to compel Trump to testify in front of a grand jury, if Trump refused a voluntary interview. But so far, Mueller has not issued a subpoena for Trump.