RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, may not see prison time for lying to the FBI. Flynn pleaded guilty to that offense last year. But according to a memo released by the special counsel team last night, Flynn has been such a cooperative witness that Robert Mueller is recommending a lenient sentence. In the filing, Mueller's team says Flynn met with his team and other Justice Department lawyers 19 times. Tim Mak covers national security and politics for NPR. And he's been following this case and joins us now in the studio.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey, there.
MARTIN: First, let's just talk some specifics, if we could. The language of this particular sentencing memo from the special counsel's office, how does it describe Michael Flynn's cooperation with the investigation?
MAK: So this memo says that Flynn's information was significant, that it was valuable information and that it aided in investigations that the Special Counsel's Office and other federal investigators have been involved in. What's interesting is that, in its redacted form, it indicates that Flynn has been involved in multiple investigations. That's at least one more besides the one we know about that has gotten all this press regarding the Trump campaign and possible ties to the Russian government. So this shows us we don't have a really good idea of what's happening behind the scenes and the nature...
MARTIN: Right. There's a lot we don't know, right?
MAK: Right. There are all these investigations that have been hidden from public view. And these investigations remain a mystery to the public this morning, even after the memo, and may involve topics we've never even considered.
MARTIN: I mean, one in particular - there's - one of these investigations is a criminal investigation, right?
MAK: Absolutely. But we don't know the topic of it. It's just blacked out in the memo.
MARTIN: We know then that Michael Flynn has been useful. He's been giving them important information even though we don't know what it is. But is there anything else that would provide a basis for the kind of leniency that Robert Mueller is recommending?
MAK: So the filing shows that the Special Counsel's Office was essentially saying that if you cooperate early enough and often enough in their investigation, they'll push for leniency for you. The situation with Flynn is that he has a long history of military service, he doesn't have a criminal background, and he's charged with a single count of lying to the FBI. He was also the first person from Trump's inner circle to cooperate, and he has kept quiet since the investigation began.
I mean, you can contrast that with a lot of the other figures that have been involved in this Trump-Russia investigation. A lot of them talk very loudly to the press. They protest on television, you know? And what's very different from the way your Roger Stones and George Papadopouloses in the world and Michael Flynn has been is that he's kept quiet. Michael Flynn has kept his thoughts private. And, you know, he's not out there...
MARTIN: May have served him well.
MAK: ...Talking about his investigation - you know, the investigation that, for example, the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting into possible Trump-Russia ties.
MARTIN: And we should just remind the audience that what he's accused of lying about to the FBI is his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the Trump transition, which is not OK.
I want to make a quick turn here with our seconds remaining because you've been following another national security issue that is also a problem for President Trump - Saudi Arabia and whether or not Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Yesterday, the CIA director, Gina Haspel, briefed a small group of senators. What was the result of that?
MAK: Well, senators left the briefing even more convinced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for Khashoggi's death. It really does seem that this briefing served only to inflame senators that were already pretty upset with the Saudi government. Senator Bob Corker, for example - he's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he said, essentially, that if the crown prince were in front of a jury, they'd have a unanimous conviction for murder in about 30 minutes. That's pretty strong language from the chairman. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, he's usually an ally of President Trump. But he was also very angry about the crown prince's supposed involvement. And he said, there's not a smoking gun; there's a smoking saw. Essentially, that's a reference to Khashoggi's reported dismemberment inside a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
MARTIN: So where does this go? What do lawmakers want to happen now?
MAK: You know, here's the thing. There isn't a clear road map as to what steps to take next. The Senate has procedurally advanced legislation that would limit U.S. involvement in the civil war in Yemen, where Saudi forces are fighting Iranian-backed rebels.
MARTIN: With U.S. support.
MAK: Absolutely. And - but it's not clear that they want to pursue that in the coming weeks.
MARTIN: OK. NPR's Tim Mak for us this morning.
Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.