Mueller releases memorandum. TRANSCRIPT: 12/4/18, The Rachel Maddow Show


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  All day long, I`ve been convinced and worried

that this was going to come out while I was live on the air.  But then it

happened to you.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Your staff had a betting pool on it.  I was –

there it goes.


MADDOW:  We did.  And whoever won the betting pool was supposed to get



HAYES:  You got tacos anyway. 


MADDOW:  I got – we got tacos for everybody at 8:00 anyway, because we

were so stressed out.  I couldn`t wait any more. 


HAYES:  It worked, it worked it, because I got it. 


MADDOW:  We brought the tacos, we did not bring your staff any tacos, we`ll

make that up to you tomorrow, but we did bring this upon you, my friend. 

Thank you.  Well done.


All right.  So, usually when I start this show at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, I have

a script that I have written because there are things in the news that I

would like to tell you about.  Tonight, there is no script because I`m

going to go through what we just learned from the special counsel`s office,

I`m going to go through it with you, basically as I am learning this. 


This just came out within the last 30 minutes, God bless Chris Hayes who

was able to very ably digest this, handle, go to the – I think the key

elements of it right away, bring in lots of expert guests in order to

explain what this meant.  But we really have had this for less than a half

hour, and I feel like this is the kind of document, the sentencing document

which has been filed by the special counsel`s office tonight in the case of

Michael Flynn, who was Trump`s national security adviser. 


This is the type of document that is available and sort of I think readily

accessible to all of us who do not have law degrees, who are not lawyers or

professionals in this matter.  So, I`m going to go through what we`ve just

learned, what we`ve just received from Mueller`s office.  I`ll tell you how

I understand it, and what I think that Mueller`s office is telling us, with

this document, as we go through it. 


But then only after we have gone through this material are we going to

bring in some experts who are taking their own look at it, people who do

have law degrees, people who have worked in the Justice Department, who

have worked on criminal cases like this, and some senior security reporters

who have been following the incredible case of Mike Flynn ever since it

first broke.  So, we`re going to get expert advice.  But, first, let me

just show you what we just got, because it really is just in. 


All right.  It`s dated today, the United States of America versus Michael

T. Flynn.  He`s the defendant.  It`s the government`s memorandum in aid of



The United States of America by and through Special Counsel Robert S.

Mueller III, respectfully submits this memorandum in aid of sentencing

defendant Michael T. Flynn.


On December 1st, 2017, the defendant pled guilty to one count of making

materially false statements to the FBI.  As calculated by the U.S.

probation office, the defendant`s applicable total offense level is 4,

criminal history category 1, resulting in an advisory guideline range,

meaning sentencing range of zero to six months. 


That offense level and guideline range however do not account for a

downward departure pursuant to United States sentencing guidelines,

reflecting the defendant`s substantial assistance to the government, which

the government has moved for contemporaneously. 


So, this is our first indication right at the top of the sentencing

memorandum, that Mueller is pleased with what has gone on between his

office and Mike Flynn in the past year and a couple days since Flynn first

pled guilty and agreed to cooperate.  Right up front, they`re saying that a

downward departure from the sentencing guidelines is warranted in this

case, because of the substantial assistance that Flynn has provided to the



And it continues in that vein, given the defendant`s substantial assistance

and other considerations set forth below, a sentence at the low end of the

guideline range is appropriate and warranted.  A sentence at the low end of

the guideline range, including a sentence that does not impose a term of



So, Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence

Agency, the subject of a lot of intrigue and a lot of unanswered questions

in terms of reporting about the Russia scandal, the first major figure from

the Trump administration to fall in conjunction with this scandal, off the

bat, out of one year of cooperation with the special counsel`s office. 

They are recommending no prison time for Mike Flynn. 


Now, that`s, of course, not binding.  The judge can depart from that, but

that`s what the special counsel is recommending, and we get a lot more

detail in this document of why. 


Here we go: the nature of the offense and the defendant`s history and

characteristics are set forth below.  In addition, the addendum to this

memo describes the defendant`s assistance to the government.  Meaning what

Mike Flynn told us. 


Because the addendum includes sensitive information about ongoing

investigations, the government is seeking to partially seal the addendum

and has filed publicly a redacted version of the document that excludes the

sensitive information.  So, that`s coming up in a few pages.  The addendum

is where the special counsel`s office explains exactly how Flynn has been

helpful, what exactly he has given them information about.  And I`ll show

you big pieces of it that are redacted, but we do get a substantial amount

of information. 


All right.  So, this – at the sentencing memorandum, though, before we get

to exactly what he told the government, we basically get a rundown of how

the government got to Flynn in the first place, and why he ended up lying

to them.  The defendant`s offense is serious. 


Quote: As described in the statement of offense, the defendant made

multiple false statements to multiple Department of Justice entities on

multiple occasions.  The first series of false statements occurred during

an interview with the FBI on January 24th, 2017.  Now, for context here,

January 24th, 2017 is not yet one week into the brand new Trump

administration.  Trump was sworn in like January 20th, right?  So, January

24th, 2017, I think it`s like the first Tuesday that Trump was president. 


Mike Flynn was already lying to the FBI the first Tuesday that Trump was

president.  Quote: At the time of the interview, the FBI had an open

investigation into the Russian government`s efforts to interfere into the

2016 presidential election, including the nature of any links or

coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with

the campaign of President Donald J. Trump.


Days prior to the FBI`s interview of the defendant, “The Washington Post”

had published a story alleging that Flynn had spoken with Russia`s

ambassador to the U.S. on December 29th, 2016.  The day the U.S. announced

sanctions and other measures against Russia in response to that

government`s actions intended to interfere with the 2016 election.  So,

again, this is right after Christmas 2016, so this is after the election,

we know that Donald Trump is the incoming president, but Obama is still



And Obama after – around Christmastime, during the transition, orders new

sanctions against Russia to punish Russia for what they did to mess with

our election.  On December 29th, between Christmas and New Years, Mike

Flynn calls the Russian ambassador, according to “The Washington Post” and

says, hey, hey, hey, don`t worry about those sanctions.  We`re going to

have a different attitude toward those sanctions, don`t retaliate, et

cetera.  “The Washington Post” reports that, that ends up being relevant to

the FBI`s subsequent interview of Flynn on that subject.


Quote: “The Post`s” story queried whether the defendant`s actions violated

the Logan Act which prohibits U.S. citizens from corresponding with a

foreign government with the intent to influence the conduct of that foreign

government regarding disputes with the United States.  Subsequent to the

publication of “The Post” article, and prior to the defendant`s FBI

interview, members of President-elect Trump`s transition team publicly

stated they had spoken to the defendant and that he denied speaking to the

Russian ambassador about the sanctions. 


All right.  So, that`s what the FBI is facing, in the first week of the

Trump administration.  David Ignatius has reported in “The Washington Post”

that during the transition, when the U.S. government under President Obama

was sanctioning Russia, Mike Flynn called them and was like, don`t worry

about those sanctions.  Ignatius in that column, in “The Washington Post”,

questions whether or that`s kind of illegal or at least improper. 


Mike Flynn, then a private citizen, even though he was the incoming

national security adviser, shouldn`t be messing with this dispute that the

U.S. and Russia have over Russia interfering with our election.  Then,

thereafter, Flynn and other people within Trump`s transition team say that

Flynn told them that Flynn didn`t actually have those conversations. 


So, that creates a counter intelligence worry for the FBI, right?  If the

Ignatius column is correct and those conversations did happen between Flynn

and Russia, then Russia knows they happened, right, because they were in on

the calls.  And if those conversations did happen, and Russia knows they

happen, but Flynn`s lying about them, that`s a counter intelligence

problem, right? 


The FBI handles counter intelligence issues in the United States.  If the

national security adviser of the United States is telling lies about

something, trying to cover something up, and Russia knows the truth about

it, and Russia knows that he`s lying about it, they can lord that over him,

right?  They can potentially blackmail him with that.  They can threaten

him to expose that thing, since they know he wants to cover it up. 


This is a counterintelligence worry.  The FBI handles counterintelligence

measures.  They want to find out if what`s been reported about Flynn`s

behavior in “The Post” is true, given his public statements and his

statements to other government officials, other people in the transition,

that he didn`t do it.  That`s why the FBI is interested. 


OK.  Quote: When the FBI interviewed the defendant on January 24th 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 many and he 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. 

Meaning, Flynn initially spoke to the Russian ambassador and said, don`t

escalate in response, don`t respond to these Obama sanctions, don`t worry,

we`re going to be different. 


And then he has a subsequent conversation with the Russian ambassador, who

says, you know, we didn`t respond to those sanctions because you told us

not to.  Apparently, Flynn lies about both of those conversations to the

FBI, right?  So, if the FBI is worried about Russia having compromised

Flynn, once they get these false statements from him, not only is he

committing another crime by lying to them about it, now, they realize this

is a counterintelligence emergency. 


He has been lying and Russia knows it, so they can lord that over him. 

Having leverage like that, hostile foreign power having leverage like that

over a national security adviser, that`s a catastrophe. 


Quote: In addition, the defendant made false statements to the FBI about

his prior interactions with the Russian government, in December 2016,

concerning a pending U.N. Security Council resolution.  The defendant`s

false statements to the FBI about, one, his contacts with the Russian

government emissary.  Two, the requests he conveyed to the Russian

government through that emissary.  And three, Russia`s response to those

requests, those were all material to the FBI`s investigation into the

nature of any links or coordination between the Russian government and

individuals associated with the Trump campaign. 


So, at this point on January 24th, 2017, in the eyes of the FBI, Mike Flynn

is three big problems.  Number one, he`s a felon, because he just lied to

them.  Number two, he has given false statements that are material to a

serious ongoing counterintelligence investigation, and criminal

investigation, into how Russia interfered in our election.


So, he`s given false statements in conjunction with an on going

investigation, he`s lied to investigators and he himself is a huge

counterintelligence and national security risk because he`s compromised. 

That`s already in place while Mike Flynn is getting his drapes measured for

his new desk, right?  This is the first Tuesday that Trump`s in office. 

So, that`s the first set of lies, January 24th. 


The defendant made a second series of false statements to the DOJ

concerning his contacts with the Republic of Turkey.  Specifically on March

7th, 2017, so this is after he`s out of the Trump administration, but he`s

– so he`s been fired or resigned at this point in mid February.  He`s out

and now talking to investigators. 


On March 7th, Flynn made materially false statements in multiple documents

that he filed pursuant to the Foreign Agent`s Registration Act, pertaining

to a project he and his company had performed for the principle benefit of

the Republic of Turkey.  In those filings, Flynn disclosed that he and hi

company began work on the Turkey project in August 2016, soon after a coup

was attempted in Turkey.  Ultimately, the project lasted approximately

three months.  So, August, September, October, maybe November.  And the

defendant and his company were paid just over half a million dollars for

their work. 


The FARA filings omitted the fact that officials from the Republic of

Turkey, provided supervision over the Turkey project.  At the time, Flynn

was a national security adviser and surrogate for the Trump campaign who

opined publicly on foreign policy and national security issues.  The

defendant`s business relationship with the Republic of Turkey was exactly

the type of information FARA was designed to ensure was within the public



The purpose of FARA is to ensure the U.S. government and United States

people are informed of the identity of foreign entities, in this case, a

foreign government, behind information or propaganda being used to

influence public opinion, policy and laws. 


So, they`re saying that when Flynn retroactively filed as a foreign agent,

who had been representing the government of Turkey during the campaign, he

omitted material facts from that filing.  And the government has over the

course of the Russia investigation become aggressive on this issue of FARA,

the Foreign Agent Registration Act.  This is them sort of pounding their

chest a little bit, saying this is what FARA is for, so we don`t have

people acting in the political sphere or in government who are acting on

behalf of a foreign entity, without the American public knowing that a

foreign entity is at work here. 


Quote: On election day in 2016, Flynn published an op-ed for the Turkey

project that called for the removal of a Turkish cleric residing in the

United States and the president of Turkey blamed for the failed coup in the

country.  The cleric`s responsibility for the coup attempt was a subject of

great debate, and Flynn`s op-ed about the cleric`s role was valuable to

Turkey`s efforts to shape public opinion.  Flynn falsely represented in his

FARA filings that the op-ed was written at his own initiative as opposed to

for the Turkey project and for the Republic of Turkey, he thus again

deprived the public of the very transparency FARA was deigned to ensure.


Flynn`s false statements impeded the ability of the public to learn about

Turkey`s efforts to influence public opinion about the failed coup,

including its efforts to effectuate the removal of a person legally

residing in the United States. 


Now, this is materially relevant to what Flynn did.  It also explains one

of those oddball stories about Flynn, which have been sort of hanging out

there ever since he left the Trump administration, which was, why did he

write that bananas op-ed in “The Hill” on election day that called for this

Turkish cleric to be sent back to Turkey where they would definitely tar

and feather him.  It also, of course, relates to current news, because of

recent reports that the Trump administration is once again negotiating to

maybe try to send that cleric back to Turkey, where they would still tar

and feather him.  That is something that Mike Flynn was being secretly paid

to advocate during the campaign, including on election day, the Trump

administration has since pursued that same super dodgy aim of its own



All right.  And here`s the end of this part of the Flynn filing.  History

and characteristics of the defendant.  The defendant`s history and

characteristics present both mitigating and aggravating circumstances.  As

detailed in the presentence investigation report, the defendant`s military

and public service are exemplary. 


Flynn served in the military for over 33 years, including five years of

combat duty.  He led the Defense Intelligence Agency.  He retired as a

three-star lieutenant general.  The defendant`s record of military and

public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged

as part of the special counsel`s office investigation. 


However, senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards. 

The defendant`s extensive government service should have made him

particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false information to the

government, as well as the rules governing work performed on behalf of a

foreign government.  The defendant deserves credit for accepting

responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the

government, as described in the addendum, shortly after the special

counsel`s office reached out to Flynn to seek his cooperation, he accepted

responsibility for his unlawful conduct and began cooperating with the



In conclusion, for the foregoing reasons, as well as those obtained in the

government`s addendum and motion for downward departure, the government

submits that a sentence at the low end of the advisory guideline range is

appropriate and warranted.  And again, given the guideline range here, what

the special counsel`s office explicitly is asking for is no jail time for

Mike Flynn.  It`s signed on behalf of the special counsel`s office – well,

it`s signed.  Mueller`s name is first, Brandon Van Grack, who`s a veteran

counterespionage prosecutor, and Zainab Ahmad, who has got incredible

record in terms of counterterrorism prosecutors.  Those are – they`re

signed on as senior assistant special counsels under Mueller`s name. 


Now, we get to second document that was just filed.  This is the addendum

to that.  Which spells out how exactly Flynn helped.  And I`m just going to

give you a little spoiler alert here.  By the time we`re on page two, it

already looks like this. 


So, NBC News had reported last night before we got any of this stuff, that

while we were expecting this Flynn memo today, because the deadline was

midnight tonight.  NBC reported that at least some of this document about

Flynn, about his crimes, about how helpful he`s been, about his

cooperation, about what the special counsel`s office thinks he should get

in terms of punishment, NBC reported last night that at least some of it

would be public facing, it wouldn`t all be filed under seal.  I think the

best parts of it are filed under seal.  But even the parts that aren`t

blacked out are really interesting. 


All right.  United States district court for the District of Columbia. 

Again, the case is United States of America versus Michael Flynn.  This is

the addendum to the government`s memorandum in aid of sentencing. 


This addendum to the government`s memorandum in aid of sentencing describes

the significance and usefulness of defendant Michael T. Flynn`s assistance

to the government and the timeliness of that assistance.  As described

herein, the defendant`s assistance to the government was substantial and

merits consideration at sentencing. 


I will say one of the things that I`m going to want to check with our

expert guests as we go on over the course of this hour, is this consistent

emphasis by the special counsel`s office on timeliness.  Both in the

sentencing memorandum and what you`ll see here in this detailed exposition

of how exactly Michael Flynn helped.  The special counsel`s office goes out

of its way to say Flynn didn`t delay.  He helped right away. 


So, I mean, big picture here, we`re getting Flynn with no recommendation of

jail time, in terms of how that relates to other witnesses and other people

who are considering whether or not they`re going to cooperate.  This is

obviously a message that if you do cooperate well and fully, and

expansively with the special counsel, and you don`t hold things back, and

they think you`re telling the truth, you can get zero jail time.  Doesn`t

that sound good?


But they`re also going out of there way to emphasize one of the things they

like so much about Flynn, is that he told the truth right away.  He

accepted responsibility, and he told them – despite his crimes, which they

say were serious – he told them right away what they needed to know. 


Maybe that`s boilerplate, but it does seem like it sticks out to me in

terms of how they`re talking about what they like about Flynn here. 


All right.  Point one, significance and usefulness of the defendant`s

assistance, the defendant has assisted with several ongoing investigations,

a criminal investigation – redacted, comma.  Then secondly, the special

counsel`s office`s investigation concerning any links or coordination

between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign

of President Donald J. Trump, comma, redacted. 


Now, what that makes it look like is that Mike Flynn has helped with three

different ongoing investigations.  One of them is a criminal investigation

that gets listed before Robert Mueller ever gets mentioned.  Before the

special counsel`s office investigation even gets mentioned here, there`s

some other criminal investigation that Flynn helped with too, that we don`t

know anything about, other than the fact that it`s a criminal



And then after we get the special counsel`s office investigation into links

or coordination between the Russian government and Trump, there`s also some

other investigation too, that we get no information about.  Presumably, it

could be some subsidiary or related investigation from the special

counsel`s office, or it could be something totally separate.  It looks like

Flynn is helping with three things.


Quote: As part of his assistance with these investigations, the defendant

participated in 19 interviews with the special counsel`s office or

attorneys from other Department of Justice offices.  He provided documents

and communications – redacted.  While this addendum seeks to provide a

comprehensive description of the benefit the government has thus far

obtained from Flynn`s substantial assistance, some of that benefit may not

be fully realized at this time, because the investigations in which he has

provided assistance are ongoing. 


The defendant and the government agree that sentencing at this time is

nonetheless appropriate because sufficient information is available to

allow the court to determine the import of the defendant`s assistance to

his sentence.


OK.  So, what`s that`s about is that in general – and again, not a lawyer,

but I talk to lawyers on TV, who fact check me.  In general, when you`ve

got a cooperating witness, the – and again, we`ve seen slightly different

variations on this with different witnesses.  In general, the way we`ve

seen this happen is that the witness pleads guilty, the witness is advised

at that point of what he or she could potentially face in terms of

punishment, but then the witness, if the witness is agreeing to cooperate

with prosecutors, prosecutors then basically promise to tell the court how

well that witness does as a cooperator, how completely they cooperate,

whether they tell the truth, apparently how timely they are in their

cooperation with prosecutors. 


And then the judge in the case of this person who has pled guilty then

factors in that cooperation when they decide whether or not the person is

going to be sentenced to jail or how much time they`re going to get if at

all.  In this case, they`re saying, listen, the cooperation has here has

been substantial.  We like the way that Flynn has dealt with us. 


This is not over, though.  They`ve delayed his sentencing like four or five

times at this point.  They`re finally ready to go ahead with the

sentencing, essentially to get on with his life, but they`re saying that

the things that he helps them with are ongoing investigations.  That itself

is interesting, the decision to not make Flynn wait for his sentencing. 

Wait for the end of his involvement here, until the end of these

investigations, to let him go through while they`re still on going, that

itself seems like sort of a mercy, an act of mercy from the special

counsel`s office.  But again, we`ll get expert advice on that as we go



So then we get point by point a list from the special counsel`s office of

how exactly Flynn has helped these three different investigations that

appear to be laid out in the first part of this memo.  The first one is the

criminal investigation that we know nothing about, and we get nothing on

that.  It`s point A.  It comes even before the prosecutors talk about how

he helped the special counsel`s office. 


But in redacted criminal investigation, quote, the defendant has provided

substantial assistance in a criminal investigation.  And then it`s

basically a full page of redacted lines and we get no other information

about how Flynn has helped in that investigation or what exactly it is. 


So, we can skip ahead to B, the special counsel`s office investigation. 

The defendant has also assisted with the special counsel`s office

investigation concerning links or coordination between the Russian

government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.  The

defendant assisted the special counsel`s investigation on a range of issues

including interactions between individuals in the presidential transition

team and Russia, comma, redacted, period.  A non-exhaustive summary of the

relevant information the defendant provided is described below to aid the

court`s assessment of the defendant`s assistance. 


So, even when it comes to the special counsel`s office investigation,

specifically into the contacts between the Russian government and the Trump

campaign, some of that we get described here, at least in general terms,

but some of that is apparently part of an ongoing investigation that is

still blacked out.  But here`s the detail they give, number one,

interactions between the Trump transition team and Russia.  Flynn provided

firsthand information about the contents and context of interaction between

the transition team and Russian government officials.


For example, after the election, Flynn communicated with the Russian

ambassador to the U.S. as a representative of the transition team on two

sensitive matters, a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution calling for

Israel to cease settlement activities in Palestinian territory, and the

Obama administration`s imposition of sanctions and other measures on Russia

for interfering in the 2016 election.


Several senior members of the transition team publicly repeated false

information conveyed to them by the defendant Michael Flynn about

communications between him and the Russian ambassador regarding the

sanctions – redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted.  OK?


The defendant also provided useful information concerning – redacted,

redacted, redacted.  More than a full page of redactions at this point. 


So, Flynn helped with three different things.  One of them is the special

counsel`s office investigation into contacts between Trump and Russia. 

Some of that is redacted.  One of them is a criminal investigation, all of

which is redacted.  The other one, we don`t know if it`s a criminal

investigation, because that whole thing is redacted. 


Nevertheless, special counsel`s office thinks the amount of cooperation

they are able to describe to the court and again none of these things that

are redacted are redacted to the judge, the judge knows what`s behind all

these black bars.  It`s just us the public that don`t know this.


The special counsel`s office believes it can convey enough information to

the judge about what Flynn has done with them, that Flynn should be allowed

to go forth and be sentenced and the recommendation is zero prison time. 

Or as little as zero prison time. 


So, there`s still a lot of us – there`s still a lot of us being in the

dark here.  But in general, it`s positive.  And before they wrap up here,

the last thing they say is, once again, going back to the timeliness of the

defendant`s assistance, it`s the last point.


The usefulness of the defendant`s assistance is connected to its

timeliness.  Flynn began providing information to the government not long

after the government first sought his cooperation.  His early cooperation

was particularly valuable, because he was one of the few people with long

term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation

by the special counsel. 


Additionally, Flynn`s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely

affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming

with the special counsel and cooperate.  Meaning, when Flynn flipped, that

made other people flip too. 


But then after that, it`s one big long redacted line.  And then it is

respectfully submitted, Robert Mueller.  That`s what we`ve been waiting for

in terms of the government`s public facing sentencing documents, sentencing

recommendations when it comes to Flynn. 


The amount of information here that is redacted, the way that it is

redacted, indicating he`s Cooperating in three different investigations,

but we`re only allowed to know part of one of them is fascinating, but some

of the legal points here are things for which I need some expert advice. 


Boy, do I have a good expert.  Joining us first here tonight is Chuck

Rosenberg.  He`s former U.S. attorney.  He`s a former senior FBI official. 


Chuck, it`s great to have you with us tonight.  Thank you so much for

looking at these documents as soon as they`ve come out, and for helping us

understand what`s here. 


CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Oh, my pleasure, Rachel.  Thank you

for having me. 


MADDOW:  I am told that in the addendum in particular, you think that there

is – there`s something that jumps out for you, sort of late in the

addendum in that piece that I just read. 


Can you talk to us about that? 


ROSENBERG:  Yes.  Sure can.  It`s that last paragraph you cited on page

five of the addendum.  It talks about a couple things that are really



That Mr. Flynn`s cooperation was early, timely.  That it was firsthand,

that it was long term, and that, in fact, as you noted.  It caused other

people also to cooperate. 


So, you asked earlier and it`s a great question, why does timely matter so

much?  And you see it here, and the government tells you precisely why it

matters, because other people followed his lead.  Other people came forth. 


By the way, Rachel, in that same addendum, where it notes that he was

interviewed 19 times.  It also says that he provided documents and

communications.  That`s also critical. 


So, it`s not just the word of Michael Flynn upon which they are relying. 

He has stuff to corroborate what he said, documents and communications. 

And that`s also critical to prosecutors, the sooner they get that, the

quicker they can build a case and rope in other people. 


MADDOW:  Now, Chuck, you mentioned when you`re describing what`s

interesting to you about that part of the addendum, that them describing

his cooperation as firsthand.  His early Cooperation was particularly

vulnerable – excuse me, valuable because he was one of the few people with

long term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under

investigation by the special counsel. 


What`s interesting to you about that firsthand reference there and what

that means in this context? 


ROSENBERG:  To quote from Hamilton, he was in the room where it happened. 

He heard it, he saw it, he remembered it and he told it.  And apparently,

Rachel, he told it truthfully. 


What also – so, this is an ordinary sentencing memorandum in an

extraordinary investigation.  Ordinary in the sense that every time

somebody is sentenced in federal district court, the government files a

sentencing memorandum laying out what he or she did, and what consideration

they ought to get from the court at sentencing. 


What makes this unusual is that the government goes out of its way to say

that even though this investigation is not complete, look at all those

redactions, we trust this guy.  He was early, he was firsthand, he was

honest, he was forthright.  He met with us 19 times.  And we`re comfortable

with this guy not going to jail. 


That timeliness, that firsthand information, that firsthand information

that puts the government in the room where it happened is what`s so crucial



MADDOW:  And when they use the term insight – I think of insight as sort

of a non-legal term.  I think of it as a wooly term, meaning he`s

essentially helping them form contextual appraisals of the meaning of

information.  It almost makes them sound like he was sort of consulting

with them in terms of how they should approach various evidence that they

collect in the course of their investigation. 


Is that of – should we see that as a legal team right here?  Is that a

sort of thing providing insight, giving us understanding of the information

that we were going to accumulate here?  Is that typical of sentencing

memorandum as well? 


ROSENBERG:  It`s a very savvy point.  You don`t often see that word per se

in a sentencing memorandum.  What does happen during all those debriefs,

those 19 meetings that they reference here, is that people will ask –

agents and prosecutors will ask Flynn for context.  Who was there?  What

did it mean? 


Sometimes you`ll see this in mob cases or drug cases, where the language

used isn`t automatically apparent to other people.  And so, sometimes,

people talk in code or sometimes they have acronyms, sometimes the fact

that someone is in the room or not in the room, has some importance to the

participant that it would not to you and me.  And so, he`s giving them

insight, he`s giving them context, he`s giving them fiber if you will. 


And that makes him also particularly valuable, considering it was early,

firsthand, long term and forthright. 


MADDOW:  The phrase that they use right up at the top in the sentencing

memorandum, not in the addendum where they spell out how he helped them,

the defendant`s substantial assistance to the government. 




MADDOW:  Are those – is that a trigger word? 




MADDOW:  Is that a specific term that the judge is looking for in terms of

what sort of impact this should have on Flynn`s sentence?  Substantial



ROSENBERG:  Yes.  In fact, unlike insight, “substantial assistance” is a

term of art.  Under the United States federal sentencing guidelines,

Rachel, the government can move for a downward departure, below the

recommended guideline range if the defendant provides, quote-unquote,

substantial assistance. 


Now, here, of course, the guideline range is zero to six months.  You can`t

really go much lower than that.  But they nevertheless want to flag for the

sentencing judge, Judge Emmet Sullivan, that his cooperation rises to that

level.  And federal judges recognize that term, substantial assistance, and

they know that the government only gives it to those who provide

extraordinary assistance. 


MADDOW:  I have one last question for you, Chuck, and again, I really

appreciate.  I know how careful you are in all of your work, and in

everything you say, so reviewing this quickly, and giving us your top line

– your top line take on it, and in order to help us through it, I realize

it`s a lot to ask of you tonight.  So, I am thankful for you. 


ROSENBERG:  My pleasure. 


MADDOW:  But I raise the question while I was going through the document as

to whether or not this might indicate a sort of merciful attitude toward

Flynn on the part of the special counsel`s office. 




MADDOW:  And I raise that specifically because of these redactions.  The

special counsel`s office explains in writing, in plain language that the

reason all this stuff is blacked out and redacted in this filing is because

a lot of the stuff that he helped them with turned into ongoing

investigations, stuff that isn`t wrapped up yet.  And it`s my impression,

just as a lay observer of these things, that cooperators usually expect to

have to wait until the case is over before they find out how valuable their

cooperation was, whether it resulted in prosecutions and convictions of

other people and therefore, how the judge should weigh it against the

gravity of their crimes. 


By allowing the sentencing to go forward, while so many of things that

Flynn helped them with are still ongoing and still aren`t settled matters

and still aren`t being disclosed to the public even a little, should we

essentially see that as generosity toward Flynn? 


ROSENBERG:  Yes, I think that`s a fair read, Rachel.  Here`s why.  The

government could have asked the judge to keep postponing sentencing.  The

judge I presume would have done so.  And most defendants have to wait until

their cooperation is complete in order to get this consideration. 


A couple things might be going on here, though.  Number one, remember his

guidelines – the guideline recommendations was still zero to six months,

he was perhaps not likely to go to jail no matter what, even though the

judge could sentence him to a period of incarceration.


And, second, I presume that they have had him testify in the grand jury,

meaning, and we`ve discussed this before, they`ve locked in his testimony

under oath.  So, if they need him at a trial down the road, they still have

some leverage over him.  They have that locked down sworn grand jury

testimony to make sure he doesn`t sort of stray from the script that he has

already provided to them. 


So is it an act of mercy?  I think that`s a fair read.  But does the

government have what it needs?  Absolutely, they seem quite satisfied here. 


MADDOW:  Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI and

Justice Department official – thank you, Chuck.  Really, really appreciate

you being here. 


ROSENBERG:  My pleasure. 


MADDOW:  Next, I want to bring into the conversation, Carol Leonnig,

national reporter with “The Washington Post”.  She`s been a top byline on a

lot of the scoops in this scandal thus far, and along with all of us, she`s

been absorbing this information about the Michael Flynn part of this case,

as we have received it tonight.


Carol, thank you so much for being here. 



Sorry, it`s a little bit scattered here. 


MADDOW:  Well, you know, it is here too.  Usually I write things that I say

on TV.  But not tonight. 


LEONNIG:  I understand. 


MADDOW:  Let me ask you – first of all, just for your top line impression

of how Flynn seems to be fitting in to the overall Russia scandal, to the

overall investigation, and how this document has advanced our understanding

of that tonight? 


LEONNIG:  Well, I think there were three big, striking moments in this

filing, for me.  One it didn`t advance our knowledge a heck of a lot.  I

don`t mean to downplay the news value of this.  There is news value. 


But one of the most striking things is how many things Mueller kept

shrouded in secrecy.  How many places you`re reading that Flynn provided

help in a criminal investigation we`re not really sure about, and it`s

entirely redacted.  How many ways in which he helped the special counsel

investigation on matter that are also redacted.  How much of the detail of

what Flynn told Mueller about Trump transition officials, senior officials

and contacts with Russia that are also redacted. 


So, that`s the first biggie, is a lot of this stuff is still under wraps. 

And you`ve got to wonder, why is it that Bob Mueller wants to keep it under

wraps right now, and only share it with the sentencing judge, what is the

issue there. 


Another striking thing I saw in this item was how much Mueller values the

firsthand, first person knowledge of Michael Flynn, a person who shocked

Justice Department officials in early January by lying to FBI agents about

something he had to know was recorded, a conversation with the Russian

ambassador during the transition period.  But in this filing, Mueller says,

look, he`s been critical and important early witness who probably,

according to Mueller`s filing, probably persuaded other transition

officials and Trump campaign officials to be more forthcoming and

cooperative with the probe.  In other words, more honest. 


MADDOW:  Carol, when I read the special counsel`s sort of recitation of the

seriousness of Flynn`s crime, and the – even as they`re saying, you know,

we basically think he shouldn`t get prison time, and he`s been super

helpful to us.  When they`re laying out what he did wrong, they talk about

that first time in January 2017, when he lied to them, it seems to me that

the FBI, with its counter intelligence mission at that point, had a few

different problems with Mike Flynn right off the bat, in the first week

that Trump was in office. 


Number one, he was lying to them about something they definitely know. 

Because as you say, that conversation with the Russian government, he had

to have known, would have been recorded, we have since learned through open

source reporting, that it likely – there were intercepts if not

recordings, and transcripts of that conversation.  The government knew what

happened there, so they knew he was lying, lying to the FBI is a crime, so

they`ve got a criminal working as a national security adviser. 


It`s also problem as we learn in this document tonight that the lies he

told there, were material to what was then the open FBI investigation into

Russia`s interference in the election, and their contacts with the Trump

campaign.  So, he was lying to them in conjunction with a case in a way

that was material to what was being investigated.  But the third problem

had to be a counter intelligence problem itself, because he was telling

lies publicly about something Russia knew the truth of. 


He had been in contact with the Russian government, the Russian government

knew that, when he started covering that up, and telling lies about that,

publicly to other administration officials, and also to the FBI, Russia had

something on him.  They could use that as leverage – threaten to out him,

threaten to blackmail him, use it to pressure him as national security

adviser, which, of course, is very dangerous. 


I wonder just from your reporting, your understanding of how this all

unfolded with Flynn, what sort of alarms that would set off within the FBI? 

What else that would activate in terms of the U.S. government to try to

neutralize or mitigate the harm caused by somebody who was that many urgent

problems all at once, the first week of a new presidency? 


LEONNIG:  You know, you summarized that so well, Rachel, and what`s – I`ve

interviewed several of the people who are on both sides of this exchange,

and several of them have testified publicly, so there`s lots out there that

you can understand about both sides of this experience. 


Flynn was lying about something to FBI agents that he had to have known

they would discover was a lie.  Why in the world Justice Department

officials ask themselves back at headquarters, why in the world had he not

been truthful?  What was so important that he couldn`t share this piece of



And that`s still today a really important mystery that`s not been entirely



As well, you had the president getting alerted by his White House counsel,

Don McGahn.  Remember, Sally Yates, after the FBI interview that doesn`t go

very well for Flynn, as she describes it, Sally Yates decides it`s so

important, she has to come over to the White House, basically two days

later, she tells Don McGahn, Trump`s White House counsel, hey, look,

there`s a problem.  Your guy is compromised, I`m not the person to decide

for you what to do, but this is an issue.  He`s vulnerable.  The Russians

know this, and by the way, he`s lying. 


McGahn takes this immediately to Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is four days

into being president, and his instant reaction is, I don`t see what the big

problem is, and what in the world are these people doing from the Obama

Justice Department coming over questioning my – you know, my heads, my

choices of senior advisers? 


So, on both sides there`s huge distrust, and at least on the Justice side,

alarm.  On the president`s side, annoyance. 


MADDOW:  Yes. 


LEONNIG:  But they`re very worried about this, and now, Mueller has a lot

of cooperation from Flynn and he now has no doubt explained to him why it

was so important to lie on January 24th and eventually become the shortest

serving national security adviser in history. 


MADDOW:  Carol Leonnig, reporter for “The Washington Post” – thank you so

much for joining us tonight.  I know, again, it is putting pressure on you. 

It`s not usually the way you work to have to turn something around like

this instantly.  So, I`m all the more thankful that you were able to join

us on such short notice.  Thank you, Carol. 


LEONNIG:  Thank you. 


MADDOW:  All right.  I want to now bring into the conversation, Barb

McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Barb

has been absorbing this information just as we have this evening.


Barb, thank you so much for staying in the studio and for helping us

through this.  I really appreciate you being here.




MADDOW:  So, let me ask, your top line view of this.  I mean, you`ve seen a

lot of sentencing documents, a lot of sentencing documents pursuant to

cooperation agreements.  Does this strike you as unusual in anyway?  Is it

a typical sort of sentencing document?  What seems important about the

overall Russia investigation here now that we`ve got this new information

about Flynn? 


MCQUADE:  Well, it is typical.  Other than the redactions, waiting all day,

eating our popcorn, waiting to see the big reveal to get all of those

redactions is somewhat unsatisfying. 


But I think there are a couple of things that are disclosed even in the

heavily redacted form that we see.  Number one, the fact that they met 19

times.  That is a huge number of meetings, and suggests that Michael Flynn

has shared an awful lot of information with the special counsel.


The other thing you pointed out, by going through the redactions in the

addendum, it looks like there`s not just one, but three separate

investigations that Michael Flynn has cooperated about, the special counsel

investigation.  And then one that`s partly redacted but says criminal

investigation.  And a third that`s completely redacted. 


And if you say criminal investigation, is that in contrast with something

else that`s in that third investigation?  Is it not criminal?  Is it

something else?  Is it a civil investigation?  Or is it a counter

intelligence investigation? 


And so, that raises some additional questions about, are there other

matters that Robert Mueller`s looking at, because remember, his mandate was

to investigate links between Russia and the Trump campaign and the second

part of that was, and other matters that might arise in the course of the



So, have they found other things, does this involve things happening in the

Seychelles islands?  Or with Saudi Arabia?  Or the things that George Nader

has been talking about?  Conversations with Erik Prince and foreign



So, it makes me wonder what other things Mike Flynn might be talking with

them about. 


MADDOW:  Right.  And I`m reading that exactly the same way you are, you try

to put these things in context, and you think, well – all right, given how

long Flynn lasted in the Trump administration, as Carol Leonnig was saying,

the shortest lived ever national security adviser, didn`t even make it a

month, it can`t be that he`s a great source of information for things that

happened during the administration, he can really only be contributing

materially substantial information for the most part, about the campaign,

and what may have happened before the campaign conceivably and during the



But also, what would the special counsel`s office, the prosecutors in the

special counsel`s office, list before their own investigation?  If they`re

making a list of three things of which he`s helping?  The first thing they

list is, A, criminal investigation – redacted, redacted, redacted. 


MCQUADE:  Right. 


MADDOW:  The second thing they list is their own investigation, the special

counsel`s office investigation. 


And then the third thing, as you mentioned, we – it comes after an oxford

comma.  We know there`s something else there.  They don`t even say as much

as just a criminal investigation, as they do in the first time. 


I don`t know how much to read into – how much to finally parse these

things.  I guess we`ll only find out if these redactions are ever made

public.  Do you think these redactions will ever be undone?  Will ever be

allowed to see this full document? 


MCQUADE:  I do.  I think a day will come when it gets unsealed.  Typically,

documents are sealed only as long as necessary to protect the integrity of

an investigation.  So, at some point, these investigations will be over,

either because charges will be filed or because they decide to decline to

bring them. 


And so, I think the day will come some day.  I don`t know when, when we`ll

see what is behind these black bars. 


MADDOW:  On that point, Barb, there`s the issue of right now how the

special counsel`s office fits into the Justice Department, and what`s going

on with the acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker who President Trump has

installed there after having fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 


We have presumed that the acting attorney general, Mr. Whitaker, has been,

you know, back channeling information to the White House in terms of his

access to information about the Mueller investigation.  That is a

presumption on our part.  It`s based on the change in language that the

president has used since Whitaker has been in there, claiming that he now

has information about the inner workings of the Mueller investigation and

other things like that. 


But aside from those presumptions and suppositions we have admittedly been

making, would you expect the way the Justice Department works, the way the

special counsel`s office works and those regulations governing that, would

you expect that Whitaker would have seen the full unredacted documents

here?  And if there is, particularly sensitive or damning information

there, there`s a possibility that Whitaker might back channel that stuff to

the White House? 


MCQUADE:  I say yes and yes.  I think that he certainly would have had

access to seeing the unredacted version of this.  I don`t know whether he

has availed himself of that.  You know, we have heard no reporting he`s

been recused from this case.  So, I imagine he`s not. 


I would imagine that Rod Rosenstein is still the one interacting with

Robert Mueller most frequently, just because of the nature of the way the

Justice Department works.  The attorney general is usually the outward-

facing person and the deputy attorney general is one who actually

supervises the high level cases.


But in light of how incredibly important this case is, and the unusual

nature of Whitaker`s appointment leapfrogging Rod Rosenstein to get this

job, I would think he would be immensely curious.  He has a right to see

it, he even has a right to stop it if he thinks it`s completely

inappropriate or contrary to Justice Department policies.  He apparently

didn`t think it was the case here. 


But if he wanted to, I think he could go tell President Trump exactly

what`s behind those redactions.  You know, if he were to do it with some

corrupt intent, with some effort to impede the investigation or to get

other people to change their stories to coordinate with what`s here, I

think that could be problematic and some obstruction of justice.  But I

think that he could probably find out what`s in here, and share it with the



MADDOW:  Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of

Michigan – thank you for being here tonight, Barb.  Invaluable to have you

here for us.  Thanks.


MCQUADE:  Thanks so much, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  All right.  Much more to get here tonight.  Again, the big news is

that within the last hour or so, the Justice Department, the special

counsel`s office has released its sentencing memorandum, saying essentially

that they want the judge to give Mike Flynn as little as zero time in

prison.  And that he has provided substantial assistance to the government

in multiple ongoing investigations.


If you want to know about that substantial assistance, you will have to

wait until the judge unseals those portions of these filings, because

there`s page after page after page after page that look like this, spelling

out what investigations Mike Flynn is helping with and how exactly he has



Stay with us.  We`ll be right back.




MADDOW:  Before we got the Mike Flynn sentencing memorandum tonight from

Robert Mueller`s office, “The Wall Street Journal” was first to report that

Bill Priestap is leaving the Federal Bureau of Investigations.  I know that

is not a household name, but Bill Priestap is the number two official in

the counterintelligence division at FBI. 


His departure from FBI is a landmark moment in the Russia investigation

because Bill Priestap is the last senior FBI official who was directly

involved at a senior level in the Russia investigation from the very

beginning.  He is the last one who was still at the FBI.  And now as of

this reporting tonight in the “Wall Street Journal,” apparently, he is now

gone, too.  Or at least he`s on his way out. 


And I know that these guys sometimes just age out.  The “Wall Street

Journal” says there is nothing unusual about this departure that Priestap

hit his 20-year benchmark at the department and just decided to leave for

that reason and that reason alone, but it is striking that as of tonight,

all of the senior FBI officials who were involved in investigating the

Russia scandal from the beginning, they are now all gone.  And the specific

official who was actually running the Russia investigation inside the

bureau on a day to day, hands on basis, before it was handed over to Robert

Mueller, that was Bill Priestap, assistant director of counterintelligence

at the FBI, and he is the official who we are just learning tonight is

about to leave the bureau himself. 


And, you know, maybe this is totally normal.  Maybe this is all

coincidental and this is just your typical turnover.  But it is remarkable

it has been 2-1/2 years since the FBI started investigating what Russia

interfering in our election, to mess with our country`s election of our

next president. 


That investigation is not wrapped up, which is very, very clear by all the

multiple redactions in the Mike Flynn sentencing tonight, about all of the

things he`s helping with that are still not wrapped that are still ongoing. 

But since the FBI started that investigation in the summer of 2016, the FBI

has lost or turfed out its director, James Comey, its deputy director,

Andrew McCabe, the head of counter espionage, Peter Strzok, the FBI general

counsel James Baker, the FBI chief of staff, James Rybicki, the head of

national security division, Carl Ghattas, the chief counsel to the deputy

director, Lisa Page, and now, the assistant director of the FBI`s

counterintelligence division who was personally running the Russia

investigation before Mueller. 


As of tonight, they are, all of them, gone.  And that is intriguing tonight

in terms of why Bill Priestap is leaving and why now.  But it is also a

good reminder of the night that we get the sentencing documents on Michael

Flynn.  Actually, Congressman Adam Schiff had a good op-ed about this today

in “USA Today”, just this morning, even before we got the Flynn sentencing

documents.  It`s a good reminder that the whole Russia scandal was being

run by the deputy director of counterintelligence at the FBI because it all

started as a counterintelligence investigation. 


And the counter intelligence division at the FBI is charged with stopping

other countries from running foreign intelligence operations inside our

borders, right, to affect this country.  In this Trump campaign, now Trump

administration scandal, this counterintelligence investigation has

specifically been looking into how Russia`s intelligence services, their

military intelligence wing, how they were trying to mess up our

presidential election in 2016.  And whether there were Americans who were

helping them in that effort. 


And the first dramatic counterintelligence development we the public ever

knew about in all this, because we saw it unfold in the newspapers.  We saw

it unfold with dramatic action in Washington, was the case of Mike Flynn. 

And tonight, even with these details that we got from his sentencing memo,

there remain all these intriguing questions that we still don`t have

answers to about the Mike Flynn part of this. 


I mean, when Mike Flynn went to Russia and attended a gala dinner promoting

the Russian propaganda channel RT in December 2015, why did he accept that

invitation, as a former senior intelligence official in the U.S. military? 

And why did he publicly lie about the fact he was actually paid by the

Russian government to make that trip? 


It is relatively easy to figure out that the Russian government paid for

Mike Flynn to take that trip.  Why did he publicly lie about it and deny

that?  He said he wasn`t ashamed of it and there was nothing wrong with it. 

Well, if so, why did he lie? 


There was also the Peter Smith story.  Republican activist now deceased

Peter Smith, exposed in “Wall Street Journal” for having run a sort of

private intel operation during the campaign where he contacted hackers

offering to pay good money for hacked e-mails stolen from Hillary Clinton. 


Before he died, Peter Smith told Shane Harris at the “Wall Street Journal,”

he specifically sought out Russian hackers for this plot, and he bragged to

potential investors and co-conspirators that Mike Flynn and Mike Flynn`s

son were both working with him on that. 


Was Peter Smith lying about or was Mike Flynn, in fact, involved in that



When “The Wall Street Journal” and then “The Washington Post” and then “The

New York Times” each reported successively on details of Flynn`s secret

involvement in a weird plan to build nuclear power plants in the Middle

East, a plan that would involve Russia, that`s the plan that reportedly led

Mike Flynn to text one of his business partners in that deal, literally on

inauguration day to text him that economic sanctions against Russia would

be ripped up as one of the Trump administration`s first acts, which, of

course, he was excited about because that would have an impact on their

nuclear deal. 


When Flynn was having his repeated conversations with the Russian

government about lifting sanctions, when he was lying publicly to the FBI

about those communications with Russia, were those discussions knowingly

connected to his own business dealings that would have benefitted from

Russia dropping – from dropping Russian sanctions?  Were those

conversations knowingly related to President Trump`s secret business

dealings with Russia, which would have benefited from the dropping of

Russian sanctions?  And if so, Russia presumably knew about all of that,

too.  Is that why those sanctions discussions were kept secret? 


I mean, according to open source reporting, Flynn is tied up in all these

different elements of intrigue involving Russia and its interference in our

election, and counterintelligence worries about Russia, you know, running

operations inside our country to compromise senior members of the U.S.

government, including the U.S. president and the national security advisor. 


Now, we`ve got news that Michael Flynn has been cooperating with the

special counsel`s office, offering significant, substantial contribution

much to the satisfaction of the special counsel and therefore he should

serve no prison time.  That said, what he`s been cooperating about we`re

not allowed to know because it is still ongoing investigations. 


In that context, was first to report tonight that inside the

Trump White House, a new White House counsel is due to start on Monday. 

His name is Pat Cipollone.  He`s apparently due to take over as White House

counsel after an unexpectedly long security clearance process.  I don`t

know why it took unexpectedly long for him to get his security clearance. 


But what`s interesting about Pat Cipollone is taking over as of Monday, the

previous White House counsel, Don McGahn, has been gone for a while.  In

the meantime for the past like couple of months, the person who has been

filling in as acting White House counsel is Emmet Flood, the president`s

lead lawyer on the Russia investigation. 


So, what that means is for the past couple of months, the president`s lead

lawyer on the Russia investigation has only been working on Russia part

time because he`s been otherwise filling in as White House counsel, too. 

If “Politico” is right tonight that Pat Cipollone is finally due to take

over as White House counsel on Monday, that means, at least, President

Trump will go back to having a full-time lawyer representing him on Russia

starting next week.  With apparently all that is still ongoing, and that

they`ve been getting lots of help from people inside the transition and the

campaign, it seems like that might be right on time. 


That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 




Good evening, Lawrence. 







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