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News Brief: Prosecutors' Flynn Memo, Bush Funeral, CBS' Moonves Probe


The president's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, should not get jail time, prosecutors are now saying.


Flynn pled guilty last year to lying to the FBI, and then he became a key part of Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election. Robert Mueller filed a memo yesterday that shed some light on what that cooperation looked like. He says Michael Flynn met with his team and other Justice Department lawyers 19 times. And Mueller's team said the information Flynn gave was so substantial - that's their word - that he shouldn't have to go to prison.

GREENE: OK. Let's bring in Tim Mak, who covers national security and politics for NPR. He's been following this. Hi there, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

GREENE: OK. So it sounds like the language of this memo from Mueller is very important, talking about how substantial the help has been from Flynn. So what exactly is the special counsel's office saying here?

MAK: Right. They're saying it was substantial. They're saying it was valuable cooperation, and that Flynn's information has aided significantly in investigations that the special counsel's office and other federal investigators have been involved in. And what's interesting is, in redacted form, this memo indicates that Flynn has been involved in multiple investigations. That's at least one more besides the one we know about regarding the Trump campaign and possible ties to the Russian government.

So we don't have a good idea of what these investigations entail, and investigators have done a pretty good job at keeping them from public view. Those investigations remain a mystery to the public this morning, and they might involve topics we've never even considered.

GREENE: OK. So we should be very clear to everyone listening to this, there's a ton of redacted information here. So there's a ton that we really don't know.

MAK: Right. And nearly half of the pages in this 13-page memo is actually been redacted - has actually been redacted. And this suggests a lot of information that's interesting that federal investigators don't yet want the public to know about yet. At the time when he began cooperating with federal investigators, Flynn had been involved with various projects involving foreign governments, ones that he has not properly disclosed. And they may have involved the Russian government and the Turkish government. Beyond that, we're kind of speculating as to what these investigations might be about.

GREENE: And I'm just thinking about the special counsel's dealing with Michael Flynn compared to Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. I mean, Mueller blew up the plea deal last month with him. So this is a different case.

MAK: Right. So this filing shows that, from the special counsel's perspective, if you cooperate early and often enough with their investigation, they'll push for leniency, right? The situation with Flynn is that he has a long history of military service. He's a retired lieutenant general. He doesn't have a criminal background. And he's been charged with a single count of lying to the FBI. He was the first person from Trump's inner circle to cooperate, and he's generally kept quiet since the investigation began.

I mean, if you look at other people who have been involved in this investigation, they've talked quite publicly about their situations, talked to the press, protested pretty loudly and testified before congressional intelligence committee. But Flynn has kept quiet, and he's cooperated quietly behind the scenes, meeting once or twice a month with federal investigators.

MARTIN: So obviously, this is a huge problem for President Trump. Tim, another big problem for President Trump - Saudi Arabia and the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. You've been following this story, so I wanted to get your take before you go because the Senate had been agitating to have the CIA director, Gina Haspel, come brief them on exactly what they know. She finally did that yesterday. What was the result?

MAK: The big question for a lot of lawmakers was to try to get a sense of the extent to which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. And senators really left that briefing convinced that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for the death. It seems to have really inflamed senators, who are looking to take action against Saudi Arabia for this killing.

MARTIN: Which is interesting because President Trump and his immediate Cabinet have suggested that those links are tenuous...

MAK: Absolutely.

MARTIN: ...So with these senators departing from that. OK. Cool. NPR's Tim Mak. Thanks. We appreciate it.

MAK: Thank you.


GREENE: All right. That is the sound there of a stream of thousands of people walking through the U.S. Capitol.

MARTIN: Yeah, they came from across the country to say goodbye to George H.W. Bush. They walk through the Capitol Rotunda, where the 41st president lay in state under an American flag. Here's visitor Sue Ellen Wheatley.

SUE ELLEN WHEATLEY: I saw him and Barbara as the parents of my generation. And he was just a wonderful person and just someone to be so respected. He just set such a standard for the entire country.

MARTIN: Today, a funeral for the late commander in chief will be held at Washington National Cathedral.

GREENE: And NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley is here to talk us through this day. Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: OK, so what are the plans here?

HORSLEY: This is a carefully choreographed tribute to the former president. At about 10 o'clock this morning, the casket of George H.W. Bush will leave the Capitol, where he's been lying in state since Monday. He'll be carried down the east side steps past an honor guard of former Joint Chiefs of Staff. The motorcade will then make its way slowly through the city to the cathedral for the funeral. And then after that service, the procession will return to Joint Base Andrews, where this man who logged so many miles in service to his country will board that Air Force 747 for one last time for the flight home to Texas.

GREENE: And who is going to be attending the funeral? I mean, we're seeing - is my count right? - five living U.S. presidents, which is pretty rare.

HORSLEY: All of the living U.S. presidents will be there, plus, of course, the large Bush family and a large contingent of foreign leaders. I mean, when you think of all the state funerals that George H.W. Bush attended, especially during his time as vice president to Ronald Reagan, when he used to joke, you know, you die, I fly - now it's payback time. Angela Merkel will be there from Germany. Of course, President Bush was instrumental in the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The former prime minister of Kuwait will be there, in a nod to Bush's role liberating his country in the first Gulf War. Former Mexican President Carlos Salinas will be there, along with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada - the NAFTA partners. Mulroney is one of those who will eulogize President Bush, along with his biographer, Jon Meacham, the former Wyoming Senator, Alan Simpson - who might be expected to bring a little humor to the proceedings - and finally, Bush's son and fellow former president, George W. Bush.

GREENE: You know, Scott, I mean, it seems like funerals like this of, you know, major leaders can be a time to set aside politics and bridge some divides. I mean, I never forget that moment where George W. Bush handed Michelle Obama a cough drop during John McCain's funeral.

HORSLEY: (Laughter).

GREENE: I mean, that's such a powerful image. And it seems that George H.W. Bush's death has offered kind of this moment of - I don't know if I can call it understanding between the Bush family and President Trump. What are we seeing here?

HORSLEY: Well, I'm not sure we're going to see any ceremonial passing of the cough drops today.

GREENE: OK (laughter).

HORSLEY: There's not necessarily the same kind of genuine affection that we've seen between Michelle Obama and George W. Bush. But we're also not going to see the kind of open hostility towards President Trump that was on display during John McCain's funeral. The Bush family has made it clear that Trump is welcome at this service. And while there's no love lost between the families, the president has been on his best behavior, tweeting approvingly about the proceedings. He also paid a courtesy call to George and Laura Bush yesterday.

GREENE: NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome, David.


GREENE: All right. There's new information about how the former head of CBS has been handling investigations into his behavior.

MARTIN: Yeah. Les Moonves is his name, and he stepped down in September after multiple women had accused him of harassment and misconduct and assault. He was supposed to walk away with $120 million in severance. CBS hired lawyers to see whether Moonves violated his employment agreement. They say he did, according to a draft of their report that The New York Times has seen. And the report brings up new allegations and shows that board members who knew about Moonves' behavior did nothing about it.

GREENE: OK. And let's bring in NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. And, David, tell us about this. How did these CBS lawyers say Les Moonves tried to get in the way of what they were doing?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, they basically say he intentionally tried to mislead to the board's investigation from the outside lawyers, and that he lied. They say that he lied about the nature of some of his sexual interactions with people who worked for CBS or around the entertainment world, that he actively deleted hundreds of texts that he had, as he was trying to handle the manager for an actress who, many years ago, has - or who accuses Moonves of, many years ago, sexually harassing her pretty severely.

In one instance, he sought to try to get her a job to basically keep her quiet at CBS over the course of next year. And additionally - it's one small instance that's pretty telling - he was asked to hand over his own electronic equipment so that the investigators could look at it. He handed over his son's iPad instead of his own.

GREENE: His son's iPad?


GREENE: Oh, wow. OK. Well, so we're learning about things like that in this report, but as Rachel mentioned, there are also new allegations surfacing in this report. What exactly are those?

FOLKENFLIK: Let's be clear with listeners that some of this stuff is pretty seedy. We're talking - what the lawyers have found, according to the draft report, is that he had - that at least four CBS employees gave him, the chairman of CBS, oral sex.

And the investigators included that these were - and this is a quote - "these were in circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance or reciprocity," and then they say, "especially given what we know about his history of more or less forced oral sex with women." I want to point out that his lawyer has reiterated his stance that all of his interactions were consensual.

In addition, investigators found that there was an employee who essentially was on call to Moonves for sexual - for oral sex, at his beck and call. And that a board member, recently deceased, but Arnold Kopelson, who was not only a longtime - in the entertainment world but a longtime entertainment lawyer, had been informed some years ago, before joining the board, of an instance in which a woman accused him of sexually - sexual assault, and that he told the board - he took the position on the board, told the board nothing.

GREENE: And this is a guy, given all of this, who was supposed to walk away with $120 million in severance. Is that still happening?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, this report would seem very much to undercut that. It portrays a culture in which Moonves didn't keep good faith in this investigation, didn't keep good faith in certain kinds of corporate governance, but that others enabled him to do so, including a board member and one of his senior aides.

GREENE: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thanks.


(SOUNDBITE OF KORESMA'S "CLOUDS (INSIGHT VOL. 3)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
David Folkenflik
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.