Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor in charge of the Russia election meddling probe, recommended Tuesday that President Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn face no jail time due to his "substantial" cooperation with the investigation.
Mueller said in a court filing that Flynn, who admitted last year to lying about his contacts with Russians following Trump's November 2016 election victory, had helped in his and other unspecified federal criminal investigations, including being interviewed 19 times.
Mueller also told the Washington Federal court that despite his "serious" offense, the retired three-star general and former Pentagon intelligence chief had a strong record of military and public service.
The surprise recommendation came ahead of Flynn's upcoming sentencing, which had been postponed four times over the past year.
Those postponements indicated that, once hostile to the investigation that threatens Trump and his inner circle, he had possibly become a valuable witness.
Flynn's was the first guilty plea secured by the Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between Trump's election campaign and Russia.
In an interview with investigators on January 24, 2017, four days after Trump's inauguration, Flynn lied about conversations he had the previous December with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak.
In those conversations, apparently recorded by US intelligence, Flynn appeared to be trying to undermine the policy of then-President Barack Obama by making separate political deals with Moscow.
Obama at the time was planning sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. Flynn urged the Russians not to retaliate, suggesting Trump would reverse the sanctions.
Within weeks, Flynn was forced to resign after it was alleged that he also had lied to top White House officials about his Kislyak talks.
Then in March 2018, in a second interview with the FBI, Flynn lied about the fact that before and after the election, he had a $530,000 lobbying contract on behalf of Turkey that he had not reported.
Despite the light sentence recommendation, the memorandum gave no hint as to what Flynn had told the Mueller team about the operations of the Trump campaign and its Russia ties.