Former national security consultants lawyers have reportedly halted talks with Trumps team, pointing to possible deal with special advise Robert Mueller

Lawyers for Donald Trump believe the former national security consultant Michael Flynn is on the verge of “flipping” and cooperating with investigators into the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia, according to reports.

Flynn's legal team has cut off connections with the president's lawyers, the strongest signal yet that he is negotiating a enter into negotiations with with the special advise in the investigation, Robert Mueller, the New York Times said .

The retired three-star general, who championed Trump at campaign rallies and advocated closer ties with Russia, is a central figure in Mueller's investigation into whether Trump aides coordinated with Moscow to boost his 2016 presidential campaign. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered to help defeat Hillary Clinton by hacking and releasing emails and inundating social media with propaganda.

Last month, Mueller announced his first charges in the case, with the indictments of Trump's former campaign chairwoman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's business associate Rick Gates and the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser.

Papadopoulos has been cooperating with Mueller's investigators and, it has been theorized, may have worn a wire to collect evidence. Flynn, however, would be a superstar witness for the special counsel.

His lawyers notified Trump's legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss Mueller's investigation, the New York Times said, quoting four unnamed people involved in the case.” Flynn's lawyershad been sharing information with Mr Trump's lawyers ,” the paper wrote.” That agreement has been terminated .”

Although this alone is not proof that Flynn has turned country witness, the growth has led Trump's lawyers to conclude that Flynn has at least begun the consultations with Mueller about cooperating, in agreement with the Times.

In major criminal investigations, defence lawyers routinely share information with each other, but it can become unethical to continue if one of the health risks targets is looking to negotiate a deal with prosecutors.

Quick Guide

What you need to know about the Trump-Russia inquiry

How serious are the allegations ?

The story of Donald Trump and Russia comes down to this: a sitting chairman or his campaign is suspected of having coordinated with a foreign country to manipulate a US election. The narrative could not be bigger, and the stakes for Trump- and the country- could not be higher.

What are the key questions ?

Investigators are asking two basic questions: did Trump's presidential campaign collude at any level with Russian operatives to sway the 2016 US presidential election? And did Trump or others transgress the law to throw investigators off the trail?

What does the country suppose ?

While a majority of the American populace now believes that Russia tried to disrupt the US election, sentiments about Trump campaign involvement tend to split along partisan lines: 73% of Republican, but only 13% of Democrats, believe Trump did” nothing incorrect” in his dealings with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

What are the implications for Trump ?

The affair has the potential to eject Trump from office. Experienced legal commentators believe that prosecutors are investigating whether Trump committed an obstruction of justice. Both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton- the only presidents to face impeachment proceedings in the last century- were accused of obstruction of justice. But Trump's fate is probably up to the voters. Even if strong evidence of wrongdoing by him or his cohort emerged, a Republican congressional majority would probably block any action to remove him from office.( Such an action would be a historical rarity .)

What has happened so far ?

Former foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous pleaded guilty to perjury over his contacts with Russians connected with the Kremlin, and the president's former campaign director Paul Manafort and another aide face charges of fund laundering.

When will the inquiry come to an end ?

The investigations have an open timeline.

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Flynn would offer a critical insight into the workings of the Trump campaign and the chaotic start of the administration. James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump in May, has claimed the president urged him to aim an investigation into Flynnduring a private Oval Office meeting in February.

Matthew Miller, a partner at the strategic advisory firm Vianovo and former public affairs director at the justice department, said:” I don't think we know yet whether he's cooperating. He's almost certainly enter into negotiations with Mueller, though. There would be no other reason for the lawyers to stop communicating .”

As a longtime campaign aide who travelled with Trump, Flynn could offer evidence as to whether any illegal contacts took place and whether the candidate himself was aware of them, Miller added, though he said:” But we have not insured any evidence yet that the president knew about it .”

Perhaps more critically, Miller said,” Flynn is at the centre of the blockage of justice piece of the investigation, which impacts on the president directly.

” If you go back to Watergate, it was really John Dean[ former Nixon White House counseling] deciding to cooperate with prosecutors that resulted directly to implicating the president himself. You need a superstar witness in these cases and Michael Flynn would certainly be that .”

Flynn- who sat with Vladimir Putin at a 2015 event in Moscow- served 24 days as Trump's national security consultant but was forced to resign after it was discovered he had misrepresented his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Vice-President Mike Pence.

He was interviewed by the FBI in January about his communications with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak. The deputy us attorney general at the time, Sally Yates, soon advised White House officials that their public affirmations that Flynn had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak were incorrect and that Flynn was therefore in a compromised position.

In addition, Mueller has been investigating the retired general's role in $530,000 worth of lobbying run his now defunct firm performed for a Turkish tycoon during the final months of the 2016 campaign. The lobbying campaign sought to gather derogatory information on Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric and green-card holder living in Pennsylvania. It was also reported this month that Flynn was being investigated considering an alleged plot to kidnap Gulen and deliver him to Turkey.

Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, denied on Friday that the latest development brought Trump himself closer to a day of reckoning.

” This is a narrative that the mainstream media wants to perpetuate the past year ,” he told Fox News .” The bottom line is, if Michael Flynn did something wrong by not disclosing the relationships he had with Turkey and other governments, then he should be held accountable for that .”

Lewandowski added:” There is no liability to the president, because he didn't collude, collaborate, or coordinate with Russia in any way or form .”

FBI agents have also been scrutinising Flynn's business partner, Bijan Kian, who served on Trump's presidential transition, and his son, Michael Flynn Jr, who worked for his father as part of the lobbying campaign. Flynn Jr was a near constant presence during the campaign and presidential transition period.

On Friday, Flynn Jr tweeted an image of the actor Tracy Morgan with the caption:” Everybody calm down .” He also took a swipe at MSNBC for replaying an old interview in which his father pointedly refused to criticise Putin and posted a quote attributed to George Earle Buckle, a 19 th-century editor of Britain's Times newspaper:” In practical life the wisest and soundest people avoid supposition .”

The White House has claimed Flynn does not have incriminating information to provide about Trump. Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, told the New York Times last month that Trump” likes Gen Flynn personally, but understands that they have their own path with the special counsel. I think he would be sad for them, as a friend and a former colleague, if the process results in penalty or indictments. But to the extent that that happens, that's beyond his control .”

Along with Mueller, two congressional committees are analyse links between the Trump campaign and Russia. A June 2016 meeting that Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and others held in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer is under scrutiny. It also recently emerged that Trump Jr was messaging with WikiLeaks, which leaked emails from top Democratic officers during the campaign.

Read more: www.theguardian.com