Former US attorney Preet Bharara said Sunday that it’s likely President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is in discussions with special counsel Robert Mueller about cooperating with his investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.
“My view is based on how things used to operate in my office and based on how the world works, (which) is that there’s a substantial likelihood that they’re at least in discussions with regard to cooperating,” Bharara said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Asked if the President should be worried about the possibility that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller’s team, Bharara said: “It depends on what the President has done and what the President’s conversations with Michael Flynn and others have been. But if you’ve done bad things, then you should be very worried.”
On Thursday, Bharara, who was fired by Trump in March and is now a legal analyst for CNN, tweeted about a New York Times report that Flynn’s lawyers have told the President’s legal team that they can no longer share information, prompting Bharara to speculate that Flynn could be cooperating with Mueller.
Flynn’s lawyers’ decision to cease informal information-sharing also could be an indication Flynn is preparing to plead guilty in Mueller’s investigation, a source familiar with the matter told CNN last week.
Although Flynn’s lawyers had previously shared information with Trump’s team, the change does not necessarily indicate that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller.
Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s legal team, said last week that the decision to no longer share information “is not entirely unexpected” and shouldn’t be seen as an indication of cooperation.
“No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the President,” Sekulow said.
Lawyers can pull out of information-sharing arrangements for a variety of reasons, including concerns of potential conflicts of interest that may arise at a later date. Information sharing may also be abandoned, for example, when a lawyer is attempting to negotiate with prosecutors, but those negotiations aren’t always successful.
Flynn’s lawyers declined to comment on the decision to stop sharing information.
Interviews conducted by special counsel investigators have included questions about the business dealings of Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., such as the reporting of income from work overseas, two witnesses interviewed by the team previously told CNN. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people acting as agents of foreign entities to publicly disclose their relationship with foreign countries or businesses and financial compensation for such work.
Flynn was subject to questions and scrutiny during his brief stint as the White House national security adviser over phone calls with the former Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.
CNN previously reported that Flynn initially told investigators that he did not discuss sanctions with Kislyak, but later changed his answer to say he didn’t remember. Mueller could potentially use this to charge Flynn with making false statements – the same charge that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to last month.
Former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates already face charges relating to their undisclosed foreign lobbying for Ukraine. They were indicted by Mueller’s grand jury last month. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Bharara elaborated on the news reports on Flynn in his interview Sunday, saying if the reports are true “and he has considerable legal liability, criminal liability, then the way to get yourself off the hook – and in his case, not only himself but potentially also his son, who’s involved in some of this – the only way to do that is to cooperate with the prosecution.”
When asked how far up the leadership chain prosecutors might go in their investigation, Bharara said they could go all the way to the President based on what evidence they uncover about Flynn’s dealings and interactions.
“They could include other Cabinet officials,” he said. “They can include members of the President’s family who also serve in some capacity for the President, and they can include the President himself. I’m going to caution everybody that this is speculation, but it’s based on how the process has tended to work in the past.”