The important differences between Mueller’s sentencing memos for Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen

  • This week, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office released two sentencing memos related to the investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
  • The Flynn and Cohen sentencing memos are different in terms of how much was revealed and what the special counsel’s office recommends in terms of sentencing.
  • Here’s what’s different about the two memos.

It’s a tale of two memos. This week, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office released two sentencing-recommendation documents related to the investigation into whether President Donald Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 US election.

On Friday, Mueller’s office also released its sentencing recommendations for Cohen.

The release was one of three documents predicted for this week. On Tuesday, Mueller’s office released the sentencing memo for retired general Michael Flynn, who served as a campaign advisor and short-lived national security adviser.

On Friday evening, Mueller filed a document alleging that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, violated his plea agreement.

The Flynn and Cohen sentencing memos are quite different in terms of how much was revealed and what the special counsel’s office recommends in terms of sentencing. Here’s a look:

Michael Flynn

The alleged crime: Lying to the FBI about his contact with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition in late 2016, which Flynn was highly involved with.

Mueller’s memo claims he lied about what he said to the Russian ambassador regarding sanctions: “When the FBI interviewed the defendant on January 24 about his interactions with the Russian ambassador, the defendant falsely stated that he did not ask the Russian ambassador to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the sanctions, and falsely disclaimed any memory of his subsequent conversation with the ambassador in which the ambassador stated that Russia had acceded to the defendant’s request.”

Flynn also made false statements to the Department of Justice about his contact with Turkey.

The memo: His sentencing recommendation memo was 13 pages in total, but a good portion of the memo (the addendum to the sentencing memo) was redacted.

The recommendation: Due to Flynn’s early cooperation, which may have “affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate” – Mueller is recommending no prison time.

Date of his sentencing: December 18, 2018.

Read more: Everything Michael Cohen told Mueller about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, according to the memo that could land Cohen a ‘substantial’ prison sentence

Michael Cohen

The alleged crime: Lying to Congress – the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – about the so-called “Moscow Project” or attempts to secure a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Specifically, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about how long he had been working on the deal (it turns out it was until June 2016, not January 2016) and to what extent he discussed it with other parties at the Trump Organization.

The memo:The memo was released shortly after another sentencing memo pertaining to Cohen – that one was from the Southern District of New York, where in 40 pages federal prosecutors detailed crimes and sentencing recommendations on charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations.

The recommendation: Mueller recommends “that it would be appropriate to allow the defendant to serve any sentence imposed in this case concurrently with any sentence imposed in United States v. Cohen. In that latter case, federal prosecutors recommended 3.5 years of prison time.

Date of his sentencing: December 12, 2018.

The takeaways

The broader takeaways have less to do with Cohen or Flynn – and their respective sentences – and more to do with the investigation itself and what was learned from these two documents.

Flynn spoke to DOJ prosecutors or the Mueller investigation 19 times, and his cooperation was described as “substantial” in the memo. The six-page addendum that was highly redacted, suggests that there’s more to come out of the investigation.

In Cohen’s sentencing memo, it was revealed that in November 2015 – roughly five months into Trump’s campaign for president – he was in contact with a Russian national who “repeatedly” proposed connecting “Individual 1” (thought to be Trump) with Russian Vladimir Putin. This Russian national also suggested that connecting would provide “political synergy” and would be advantageous both for politics and business. Cohen did “not follow up” on setting up the meeting.

Some are suggesting that this November 2015 meeting lines up with a BuzzFeed News report that Ivanka Trump introduced Cohen to Russian athlete Dmitry Kolkov to set up a meeting. Cohen, decided not to pursue the connection.

Cohen and Flynn’s sentencing recommendations differed in part because of the other crimes that Cohen has pleaded guilty to in another case against being brought by federal prosecutors.

While one escaped a recommendation of prison time and the other was recommended jail time, in both sentencing memos the special counsel’s office acknowledged the defendants’ cooperation with the investigation.