Special counsel Robert Mueller has moved aggressively in his high-profile seven-month probe. He has brought charges against four people with ties to the Trump campaign or administration, including the president’s onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The outcome of Mueller’s relationship with Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators, could be key to what happens down the line, NPR reports. “There are two possible ways this could end up going, and both hinge on why Flynn lied,” said Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who teaches white collar criminal law at George Washington University Law School. “Depending on which is the case, you could have very different endgames.”
If Flynn lied about his Russia contacts because they were politically damaging, then Trump associates — and maybe the president — could get caught in a cover-up, even if what they’re trying to hide isn’t itself criminal. That could mean an obstruction of justice case. Obstruction could remain a possible endgame charge in a second scenario as well: If Flynn lied to shield a broader network of contacts between Trump associates, Russians and some nefarious actions they engaged in together. One potential charge might be conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Another theory is that Mueller might try to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. A general conspiracy charge — to defraud the United States — could come into play, says Eliason. Another possible endgame is some sort of financial crime such as money laundering. “My guess is this is all going to center around money — Russian money,” said Michael Moore, a former U.S. Attorney in Atlanta.