Michael Flynn’s Legal Team Ends Cooperation With President Trump’s Legal Team

Potentially bad news for President Trump in connection with the Russia investigation.

Trump Russia

The New York Times is reporting that the legal team for President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn have informed the legal team representing the President that they will no longer be sharing information and legal strategy and will stop coordinating the defense of the two men, a sign that Flynn could be seeking a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller or that he has already entered into such an agreement:

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case — an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal.

Mr. Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining whether anyone around Mr. Trump was involved in Russian efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

That agreement has been terminated, the four people said. Defense lawyers frequently share information during investigations, but they must stop when doing so would pose a conflict of interest. It is unethical for lawyers to work together when one client is cooperating with prosecutors and another is still under investigation.

The notification alone does not prove that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Some lawyers withdraw from information-sharing arrangements as soon as they begin negotiating with prosecutors. And such negotiations sometimes fall apart.

Still, the notification led Mr. Trump’s lawyers to believe that Mr. Flynn — who, along with his son, is seen as having significant criminal exposure — has, at the least, begun discussions with Mr. Mueller about cooperating.

Lawyers for Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump declined to comment. The four people briefed on the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

A deal with Mr. Flynn would give Mr. Mueller a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump campaign and the early tumultuous weeks of the administration. Mr. Flynn was an early and important adviser to Mr. Trump, an architect of Mr. Trump’s populist “America first” platform and an advocate of closer ties with Russia.

His ties to Russia predated the campaign — he sat with President Vladimir V. Putin at a 2015 event in Moscow — and he was a point person on the transition team for dealing with Russia.

The White House had been bracing for charges against Mr. Flynn in recent weeks, particularly after charges were filed against three other former Trump associates: Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman; Rick Gates, a campaign aide; and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser.

But none of those men match Mr. Flynn in stature, or in his significance to Mr. Trump. A retired three-star general, Mr. Flynn was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s and a valued surrogate for a candidate who had no foreign policy experience. Mr. Trump named him national security adviser, he said, to help “restore America’s leadership position in the world.”

Among the interactions that Mr. Mueller is investigating is a private meeting that Mr. Flynn had with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, during the presidential transition. In the past year, it has been revealed that people with ties to Russia repeatedly sought to meet with Trump campaign officials, sometimes dangling the promise of compromising information on Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Flynn is regarded as loyal to Mr. Trump, but he has in recent weeks expressed serious concerns to friends that prosecutors will bring charges against his son, Michael Flynn Jr., who served as his father’s chief of staff and was a part of several financial deals involving the elder Mr. Flynn that Mr. Mueller is scrutinizing.

The White House has said that neither Mr. Flynn nor other former aides have incriminating information to provide about Mr. Trump. “He likes General Flynn personally, but understands that they have their own path with the special counsel,” a White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, said in an interview last month with The New York Times. “I think he would be sad for them, as a friend and a former colleague, if the process results in punishment or indictments. But to the extent that that happens, that’s beyond his control.”

It’s not uncommon for attorneys representing different people in actual or potential criminal matters to coordinate information and legal strategy with the attorneys for other people that are or may be the subject of the same investigation. In many such cases, it is because of the close relationship between the two parties and due to the fact that it is believed by the legal teams for both parties that they coordinate their defenses to actual or potential criminal charges. Additionally, such coordination agreements are often used by attorneys since they can provide clues as to what direction a prosecutor may be headed and also prove helpful in providing information that can be helpful to their own defense of their respective clients. These coordination agreements are sometimes informal, although they can occasionally be confirmed in correspondence between the respective attorneys that outlines the extent to which information can and will be shared. There are also natural limits on the extent of cooperation that will take place in any case due to the effort to preserve attorney-client privilege and the confidentiality of the content of communications between attorneys and their clients. There are also any number of reasons why these agreements might come to an end, but the most common usually points to the fact that the interests of the respective clients are not coordinated, and that it would no longer be useful to their client or in their client best interests. One of those reasons, of course, would be if one client is pursuing the possibility of cooperating with prosecutors, entered plea negotiations, or in fact concluded such agreements and are now cooperating with prosecutors in a manner that makes their interests adverse to the those of other Defendants.

It’s hard to know what the decision by Flynn’s lawyers to end their cooperation with the Trump team means, of course, but the idea that Flynn could either be seeking to cooperate with Mueller or may have already agreed to at least the outlines of a plea agreement that would include his cooperation is that Flynn is seeking to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. Given what we know, it seems apparent that Mueller already likely has a sufficient basis for charging Flynn for offenses that aren’t directly related to the Russia investigation. For example, like former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Flynn apparently didn’t properly register as a lobbyist for foreign governments prior to the time that he was part of Trump’s campaign team and only updated his registration after the news about his lobbying became public. Additionally, we also know that he had contacts with people connected to Russia that he did not disclose, either to Federal authorities or to people in the Trump campaign, a fact that led to his departure as National Security Adviser only two weeks into the Administration. It was shortly after this, course, that President Trump asked F.B.I. Director James Comey if he could end the investigation of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and later when he fired Comey abruptly just days after he had testified about the investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign before a Senate committee. As we know now, Trump later openly admitted that he took that later action specifically because of the Russia investigation.

In any case, what this means for Mueller’s investigation is unclear. However, it is potentially significant and could lead to even more headaches for the White House.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    It sure looks like he flipped. (Or, ‘rolled over’ in the argot of my misspent youth.) Mueller announces he has enough to indict Flynn and Son, a couple weeks later Flynn’s lawyers part ways with Trump.

    We also got reporting from McClatchy that Manafort was way deeper into Russia than previously known. The extent to which Putin has managed to co-opt Trump and indeed the Republican Party is amazing. Kudos to the FSB and GRU. (Even that fatuous old creep Dana Rohrabacher has Putin’s bloody fingerprints all over him.) But Flynn wasn’t content with just selling his country out to Russia, he’s a bi-traitor: Russia and Turkey.

    Flynn and Son are going to prison unless he makes a hell of a deal, and there’s only one deal big enough to get Flynn and Son off the hook.

    Manafort, Flynn, next up: Jared and Ivanka. And let’s not forget Mike Pence, the man with the sieve for a memory. Nixon and his crew were crooks, but they weren’t traitors. Trump’s entire administration is riddled with traitors and this fish rots from its big orange head.

  2. Gustopher says:

    Perhaps Flynn’s attorneys are just much better than Trump’s, and recognize that sharing information with Trump’s lawyers just results in them getting crazy misinformation from the Trumpsters, and that anything they share to the Trumpsters gets leaked.

    Given the types of people Trump hires — his doctor, Flynn, Manafort, Jared… — is there any reason to assume that his lawyers are any better?

  3. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Doubtful. In any other situation, you keep lines of communication open with everybody you can, in order to gather as much information as possible. Even if some of it is bad, you’re able to triangulate and get ahead of the truck.

    The only reason a legal team just shuts down communication entirely with intertwined parties is when ethical concerns force it to do so. Ethically, they can’t be both talking to Trump’s attorneys and negotiating with Mueller.

    From what I can gather, he’s apparently extremely concerned about his son being sent to prison. He’s trying to cut a deal, and I’m willing to bet it’ll be a masterpiece – Flynn and son avoid prison, while both sing like canaries. This will put Kushner, in particular, in the crosshairs.

    This is how it works. You use the threat of prosecution to peel away and flip outer layers until you have enough to toast your primary target. Mueller’s team is essentially the same one from the Southern district that gutted the Gambinos. Compared to that exercise, flipping this group of manicure clients will be child’s play for them.

  4. Bill says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Manafort, Flynn, next up: Jared and Ivanka.

    If they are next I expect Trump to eventually do one of two things-

    1 Pardon them both


    2 Try to fire Mueller. In this case we could have another Saturday Night massacre scenario occur and this time can the President find someone to issue the order. Whoever does that has to know that will ruin their career and be costly financially because of the legal repercussions. It is possible no one is willing to take that step and a constitutional crisis could be set in motion.

    Maybe that sounds too much like something out of Tom Clancy (His book, not the movie version, The Sum of All Fears) crossed with Allen Drury but as Clancy said ‘ The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.’

  5. MarkedMan says:

    Reynolds’ comment about Pence being in the crosshairs is interesting. One of the rules of thumb I’ve used in my life has been to never bet on stupid. And everything I’ve ever heard about Pence is that is both stupid and as politically inept as you can be and still become a governor of a third tier state. By all accounts, his career was over and he had enough awareness to realize the Tea Party gravy train he had been working was losing steam fast. He grabbed onto the only political team stupid enough to have him, despite the incredible humiliation Trump and his coconspirators served him up on a daily. All this is a roundabout way of saying that he is certainly stupid enough to have been the bag man for the Trump con artists and there’s a fair chance that when Mueller comes for him, he will take the stupidest of the options his lawyers present and end up in prison or singing like a bird.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: From what I see, mosty a good article in New Yorker a few weeks ago, Pence is not only not very bright, he believes god wants him to be president. He has deeply held religious scruples, any of which he will happily jettison in his quest to be prez. A goal that he’s gotten pretty close to. Looks to me like more luck than skill, but I could be wrong.

    Having to choose whether to root for Pence or Paul Ryan. Lord we’ve fallen on hard times.

  7. charon says:


    Good article. Pence is a really unscrupulous opportunistic piece of work.

    The Christian Right love him like they love Roy Moore.

  8. JohnMcC says:

    Worthwhile pointing out that this indicates that Flynn’s estimation of the likelihood of a presidential pardon is that it’s pretty remote. I bet that means Mr Trump might pardon Gen Flynn himself but not the son.

    What that might mean, I don’t know. Possibly that conversation amongst the inner-Trumpers on the subject of pardons has concluded and likely no one is counting on getting pardoned except Jared & Ivanka. Possibly Don Jr. Which seems as if various staff people have no ‘deux-ex-machina’ coming and must make their own best deals.

  9. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: The number of guys and their supporters during my life time who “heard the voice of the LORD” about becoming President–shoot, limit it to my adult life, say 1980 or so–would outdraw the crowd for Wrestlemania. None of them have ever won (I exclude the Trumpster from the list because only a portion of his followers went with the “God’s man for [or was that by?] the hour and because he didn’t claim a call).

    It’s almost as though God doesn’t actually care who the US President is. Hmmmm…

  10. de stijl says:

    Pence is a fool and a stooge. He may very well be be smart (or smartish).

    But Pence as POTUS suddenly frees up years and years of R policy wish-lists, in a way that Trump can never deliver on. Pence appears and presents as normal and non-threatening; he is not, but he *seems* anodyne.

    As a responsible citizen, Pence is a million times more qualified to be President than Trump is. Undoubtedly, he is infinitely the steadier hand on the tiller.

    As a partisan, Pence would be disaster policy-wise.

    On balance, we would be better off with Pence as President. Policy can and will change; judicial appointments will eventually die off.

    Because Trump as POTUS is a hand grenade with the pin pulled. Trump is psychologically the worst person you could ever think of as President. I would prefer President Andy Dick or Lindsay Lohan. Dick or Lohan are also unhinged and unfit, but unlike Trump, would more likely defer to professional advice from subordinates.

    Trump is sui generis. Prideful, insecure, haunted, bereft, petty, incapable of sympathy or empathy, a bully-boy. This man has the the ability to launch nuclear weapons by picking up a phone handset.

    If I had to force-rank my POTUS hypothetical choices from best to worst, I’d pick:

    1. Lindsay Lohan
    2. Andy Dick

    999,999. Michael Pence
    7.6 billion +1. Donald Trump

    I cannot think of a person who is less qualified or able to fill the role of President than Donald Trump.

    Of living Americans not in prison, who would be worse at Presidenting than Trump?

  11. de stijl says:

    Lindsay Lohan is 32 yo, therefore constitutionally ineligible.

    So, I guess that mean Andy Dick is president now. Cool.

    Of living Americans not in prison, who would be worse at Presidenting than Trump?

    Amended version:

    Of living Americans not in prison and older than 35, who would be worse at Presidenting than Trump?

  12. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @de stijl:

    On balance, we would be better off with Pence as President. Policy can and will change; judicial appointments will eventually die off.

    While I see your point, I disagree. The fecklessness of this administration is its only redeeming quality. With Pence in charge, that goes out the window.

  13. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Of living Americans not in prison and older than 35, who would be worse at Presidenting than Trump?

    I’ve thought about this for a while, and I’m coming up dry.

    Maybe that main gal from Dance Moms?. The one who owns the the dance studio.

    Easily aggrieved and absolutely willing to do anything to abase and debase the other moms or their kids. Petty, belligerent, foul, emotionally abusive. If President, that gal would nuke Dallas if she lived in Fort Worth because traffic or reasons. Do not mess with that b1tch unless you have your big-boy or big-girl pants on and they’re cinched very tightly.

    I just Googled her and see she got sent to the federal pokey for tax fraud. She’s out then, because of the prison rule.

    (BTW, please take 3 minutes of your life and watch Sia’s “Chandeliers” video. That dancer was originally from that Dance Moms show. She is extraordinary! She is insanely gifted. Kinetic frickin’ genius. And she’s so young in that video! How did a person her age get that good? [googled her for more info] Her name is Maddie Ziegler and she makes me proud to be an American. When she turns 35, I hope she runs for President.)

    I literally cannot think of a single person more emotionally and psychologically unfit for the Presidency than Trump. The best I could come with was Richard Spencer and Anthony Scaramucci, but those guys are relative pikers compared to Trump

  14. de stijl says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    There is a strong likelihood that Pence will be President in the near future.

    Trump will likely not serve out his full term.

  15. rachel says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Nixon and his crew were crooks, but they weren’t traitors.

    What do you call colluding with a foreign government in order to prolong a bloody, pointless war just so he could get elected?

  16. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    Trump decides to lie about being asked to be Times MOTY.
    Seriously…what is wrong with this pathetic little man?

  17. Dmichael says:

    @Bill: Robert Bork fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor. Bork later was nominated for a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court. Although not seated, he became famous in conservative legal circles. The ones who resigned rather than fire Cox were Richardson and Ruckelshaus. Remember them?

  18. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t think that’s quite what happened. In fact in 1968 he ran on ending the war as opposed to the perception that Humphrey would continue it. Once in office he expanded the war in a doomed effort to win it. And he began reaching out to the Chinese and started negotiations with Hanoi.

    The next effect was of course horrific – the Cambodian Killing Fields, being the worst example. But I don’t think he continued the war in order to win election. Unlike Trump, Nixon was an intelligent man who did a number of good things, including the opening to China and the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump will have nothing to show for his time in office but destruction, a badly weakened United States, a more divided population and a place in history as the worst American president.

  19. Tyrell says:

    It looks more like Flynn is finally moving on to new opportunities.
    While Mueller turns his attention to Hillary.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:
  21. charon says:


    Robert Bork fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor. Bork later was nominated for a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court. Although not seated, he became famous in conservative legal circles. The ones who resigned rather than fire Cox were Richardson and Ruckelshaus. Remember them?

    Correlation does not equal causation.

  22. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @de stijl: I’d put up a bottle of single malt on that. I din’t see a resignation and can’t imagine who’s got the nads to put up impeachment charges on him. Dems don’t count for now.

  23. gVOR08 says:


    It looks more like Flynn is finally moving on to new opportunities.
    While Mueller turns his attention to Hillary.

    Cites please. I need a good laugh this afternoon.

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Then it turned out his “secret plan” to end the war was to drag it out four years ’til he was reelected. In Oct ’72 he sent Henry Kissinger (may he rot in hell, soon), who had been Nixon’s mole in Johnson’s 68 peace talks, out to say they were on the verge of a deal in Paris.

  25. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Yeah, while you’ve been writing fiction, fact has gotten really weird. And it seems now there is incontrovertible evidence that Nixon actually sabotaged Johnson’s peace talks to prolong the war so he could run on the issue of ending it… and then kept it going for years. He was a mass murderer in everything but the indictment.