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'NYT' Editor On Flynn And Russia


A Russian investigation turned a new corner this week. The New York Times says that lawyers for General Michael Flynn have stopped talking with President Trump's legal team. Of course, General Flynn was Trump's national security adviser before he resigned over fallout from conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Mark Mazzetti, who was the Washington investigations editor at The New York Times, joins us now. Mr. Mazzetti, thanks so much for being with us.

MARK MAZZETTI: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: What are the various things that the Flynn and Trump legal teams no longer communicating with each other could mean?

MAZZETTI: Well, it could mean that Flynn has decided to pursue a deal with Mueller. You know, as we reported, there is this kind of pact that the various lawyers had where they would share information under the, you know, assumption that all of the clients had the same interests.

SIMON: Yeah.

MAZZETTI: But Flynn breaking off from this is an indication that, you know, maybe Flynn - Flynn's interests no longer confer to the others. And he wants to - he's either trying to negotiate, or he's decided to cooperate. Something has changed to make it so his lawyers say that they can no longer participate in this pact.

SIMON: Now, I mean, as I don't have to tell you, of course, frequently, the idea behind that is that the person who's negotiating with prosecutors is - if I might put it this way - flipping on someone else, right?

MAZZETTI: That's correct. And if he's pursuing a deal, you know, certainly, Mueller might want to know what he has to say about the other members of the Trump - you know, the Trump team, President Trump himself. They would want to know. They would want a proffer. They would want to know exactly what Flynn has to say, what he would be agree - whether he would agree to testify to. So this is all part of a negotiation process that happens in these kinds of investigations.

SIMON: What do the prosecutors see when they look at Michael Flynn?

MAZZETTI: Well, Flynn is - Flynn's got some clear legal exposure. He, as it's been reported, was doing lobbying work for the Turkish government that was not disclosed or disclosed late. There's been questions about his truthfulness to the FBI in an interview after his phone calls with the Russian ambassador late last year. They could see someone who has exposure, whose son has some exposure potentially legally, as well, who might have an interest to, you know, cut a deal in exchange for leniency. So they might see him as a potential target.

Now, recall we've - since the indictment of Paul Manafort several weeks ago, it's been kind of expected that Flynn might be the next shoe to drop in this case. And this turn indicates that, you know, maybe there's something else - there's another outcome here for Flynn.

SIMON: He was - correct me if I'm wrong. Was not Mr. Flynn present for at least one meeting with a Russian representative - let me put it that way - that also involved Jared Kushner?

MAZZETTI: Correct. He met with the Russian ambassador last year at Trump Tower with Kushner. And subsequent to that meeting, there was a meeting that Kushner had with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov. And these are some of the questions that Mueller's team have about - what was the purpose of the meetings, what was discussed and what exactly was Flynn's involvement?

SIMON: Have you heard anything from the White House reaction to your report, sir?

MAZZETTI: No, it's been quiet. And, you know, there are certainly - everyone is trying to sort of read the signs here about what Mueller's team might do next. And so, you know, just like reporters are, some of the lawyers, as well, look for signals. And in this case, they got a signal from Flynn's lawyers about what Mueller might be up to. So it's this strange period of time we're in right now where people are waiting for Mueller's next move. But we have to sort of read the signs into what the key players do, as well.

SIMON: And is it a good caution, Mr. Mazzetti, for us to remind ourselves that, sometimes, these investigations go off in a direction that was not envisioned to begin with?

MAZZETTI: Oh, completely. And, you know, the history of some of these special counsels, obviously, is that, you know, they go in investigating one thing, and they come out with charges on it on a totally different matter. And so we know that the Mueller investigation was - we started to look at election interference by the Russians last year and whether any of Trump's advisers were involved in that. There have been these questions about how broadly, though, Mueller could be going off in the direction of Trump's finances, as well as, you know, what Flynn was doing with the Turkish government. So he - we think he considers his mandate pretty broad here.

SIMON: Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times, thanks so much for being with us.

MAZZETTI: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.