CHICAGO --- Two professors from Northwestern University are available to discuss the legal and political implications of the guilty plea made today (Dec. 1) by Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security advisor, on charges that Flynn lied to the FBI in its investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government.
Juliet Sorensen is director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the Harry R. Horrow Professor in International Law. From 2003-2010, Sorensen was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, focusing on fraud and public corruption.
She can be reached at 312-503-1482 (office) or [email protected].
Quote from Professor Sorensen
“The charges and guilty plea of Michael Flynn are significant in that they make abundantly clear that Flynn has been and will continue to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. First, the charging document is not an indictment, but an information. This means that Flynn knowingly waived his constitutional right to be charged by a grand jury, doubtless as a signal to the judge, who will ultimately impose his sentence, that he has accepted responsibility for his actions and has been cooperating since before he was charged.
“Second, the charges consist only of making material false statements to the FBI. This is a federal felony, but one that carries a far lesser penalty than other federal crimes that Mr. Flynn perhaps committed. This, too, speaks to a negotiated resolution between Mr. Flynn and the special counsel: In exchange for Flynn’s substantial cooperation, he will be charged with a crime that is much less serious than he otherwise would have been.
“Finally, the guilty plea was scheduled to occur immediately after the charge was filed. In other words, the negotiations that would go into a plea agreement, normally after indictment, arraignment and pretrial discovery, have already occurred. This, too, makes clear that Flynn and his lawyer have been in continuous, cooperative contact with the special counsel and mutually agreed on this course of events.
“What implications does Flynn’s cooperation have for the investigation? First, it’s not over. And second -- because Mueller wouldn’t bother negotiating with Flynn if he was the most significant target of this investigation -- people in the administration with positions senior to Flynn, the former national security advisor, are implicated.”
Jon Marshall, assistant professor at Northwestern’s Medill School and author of “Watergate’s Legacy and the Press: The Investigative Impulse,” observed that Flynn’s guilty plea brings President Trump a step closer to the fate suffered by Richard Nixon.
Quote from Professor Marshall
“Nixon’s resignation as president in 1974 resulted from his efforts, as well as those of top aides, to cover up the Watergate scandal, rather than any role in the Watergate burglary itself,” noted Marshall. “So far the deepening probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia has brought charges of misleading investigators, rather than of actual collusion with the Russians.”
Marshall said whether the Trump presidency ends up like Nixon’s will depend on a number of key factors, which he can discuss as an authority on this kind of a critical political situation involving the use, or misuse, of presidential power.
He can be reached at [email protected].