Mueller Investigation Zeroes In On Michael Flynn: Here's What That Means

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Less than a week after Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted on multiple felony charges, NBC News reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has sufficient evidence to charge the president's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The outlet also reports that his son, Michael G. Flynn, could face charges. The younger Flynn worked alongside his father during Trump's campaign and the presidential transition.

Citing sources close to the investigation, NBC News also noted that the elder Flynn could face lesser charges if he works with investigators to protect his son.

The Flynn news is another sign that the Mueller investigation is moving quickly. Last week it was revealed that former policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia, and he's now cooperating with Mueller. Papadopoulos possesses knowledge of Trump's inner circle and this could potentially be bad news for both Flynns, so let's recap what we know about their roles in the Trump campaign and administration.

What Was Michael Flynn's Role & Why Was He Ousted?

Flynn, a retired general, joined the Trump campaign in February 2016 and advised him on foreign policy issues. In July 2016, The Washington Post reported that Trump was considering Flynn as a possible running mate. Although he ultimately picked Pence, Trump kept Flynn as an adviser and, after his victory, Flynn was named National Security Adviser on November 18, 2016.

Just two days after Trump's inauguration, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. counterintelligence agents were investigating Flynn for his "links to Russia."

After less than a month on the job, Flynn was forced to step down on February 13 amidst multiple reports that he had communicated with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and lied to Vice President Pence about these communications.

If charges are indeed filed against Flynn, he will be the first member of the Trump administration to be indicted. (Manafort worked on the campaign, but was never a part of the Trump administration.)

What Charges Could He Face?

Mueller's team is reportedly looking at charges of money laundering and lying to federal agents, NBC reports. Mueller is also investigating Flynn's failure to register as a foreign lobbyist in 2016 when he gathered a hefty paycheck of $530,000 thanks to work that the Justice Department says "benefited the government of Turkey." (He registered retroactively this year.)

Where Does His Son Fit In?

As NBC News reported today, Flynn could potentially dodge severe legal consequences if he chooses to cooperate with the investigation for the purpose of helping his son. Mueller has also been investigating the younger Flynn for months. He worked closely with his father at the Flynn Intel Group.

In September, NBC News reported that the younger Flynn can be seen on a video with his father during a December 2015 event in Moscow. The elder Flynn is also pictured at a table with Vladimir Putin during the trip. According to the same report, his exact role in the Trump transition remains unclear. The outlet reported the younger Flynn "had a government transition email address," but his role was downplayed by Pence — largely because he was active on social media perpetuating conspiracy theories such as "pizzagate."

Where Does Trump Fit In?

Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump, testified that she warned the president that Flynn was compromised less than a week into his term. Trump didn't fire Flynn and the National Security Adviser stepped down 18 days later after the previously mentioned reports surfaced in the media.

"We wanted to tell the White House as quickly as possible," Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in May. "To state the obvious: You don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians." It was also reported in May that Obama had advised Trump not to hire Flynn when the two met in November two days after the election, according to The New York Times.

Former FBI director James Comey, who was also fired by Trump, testified that Trump asked him to stop investigating Flynn. In written testimony, Comey wrote that Trump said: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

It's clear that Mueller isn't letting it go, either.