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National
Mueller recommends no prison for Flynn, citing cooperation
The special counsel is facing a Tuesday deadline in Michael Flynn's case to file a memorandum

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel’s Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn’t do any prison time, according to a court filing Tuesday that describes Michael Flynn’s cooperation as “substantial.”

The filing by special counsel Robert Mueller provides the first details of Flynn’s assistance in the Russia investigation, including that he participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors and cooperated extensively in a separate and undisclosed criminal probe.

It was filed two weeks ahead of Flynn’s sentencing and just over a year after he became the first of five Trump associates to accept responsibility by pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Though prosecutors withheld specific details of Flynn’s cooperation because of ongoing investigations, their filing nonetheless underscores the breadth of information Mueller has obtained from people close to Trump as the president increasingly vents his anger at the probe — and those who cooperate with it.

This week, Trump lashed out at his former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, saying he is making up “stories” to get a reduced prison sentence after his latest guilty plea to lying to Congress. Trump also praised longtime confidante Roger Stone for saying he would “never testify against Trump,” adding in his tweet, “Nice to know some people still have ‘guts!’”

It’s unclear if Trump will now turn his fury on Flynn, whom Trump grew close to during the 2016 campaign and who has drawn the president’s sympathy since he came under investigation.

Trump has repeatedly lamented how Flynn’s life has been destroyed by the special counsel’s probe. At one point, he tried to protect Flynn by asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into his alleged false statements, according to a memo Comey wrote after the February 2017 encounter.

That episode, which Trump has denied, is among those under scrutiny by Mueller as he probes whether the president attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend between zero and six months in prison for Flynn, leaving open the possibility of probation.

Mueller’s office said Flynn’s cooperation merits a sentence at the bottom end of that range. But prosecutors also say the long military and government service that sets him apart from all other defendants in the investigation makes his deception even more troublesome.

“Senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards,” they wrote. “The defendant’s extensive government service should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false information to the government, as well as the rules governing work performed on behalf of a foreign government.”

Flynn’s case has stood apart from those of other Trump associates, who have aggressively criticized the investigation, sought to undermine it and, in some cases, been accused of lying even after agreeing to cooperate.

Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, stands accused of repeatedly lying to investigators since his guilty plea last September. Another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, is serving a 14-day prison sentence and, though he pleaded guilty to the same crime as Flynn, was denied probation because prosecutors said his cooperation is lacking.

But Flynn has largely remained out of the public eye, appearing only a handful of times in media interviews or campaign events, and dutifully avoided criticizing the Mueller probe despite widespread encouragement from his supporters to go on the offensive. He has instead spent considerable time with his family and worked to position himself for a post-conviction career.

Flynn’s false statements stemmed from a Jan. 24, 2017, interview with the FBI about his and others’ interactions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., as the Obama administration was levying sanctions on the Kremlin in response to election interference.

In Tuesday’s filing, Mueller’s office blamed Flynn for other senior Trump transition officials making misleading public statements about his contacts with Russia, an assertion that matches the White House’s explanation of Flynn’s firing.

“Several senior members of the transition team publicly repeated false information conveyed to them by the defendant about communications between him and the Russian ambassador regarding the sanctions,” the filing said.

As part of his plea deal, Flynn said members of Trump’s inner circle, including his son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner, were involved in — and at times directing — his actions in the weeks before Trump took office.

According to court papers, in mid-December 2016, Kushner directed Flynn to reach out to several countries, including Russia, about a U.N. Security Council resolution regarding Israeli settlements. During those conversations with Kislyak, Flynn asked Russia to delay or vote against the resolution, a request the Kremlin ultimately rejected.

Flynn also admitted that later in December 2016 he asked Kislyak not to retaliate in response to the Obama administration sanctions, something he initially told FBI agents he didn’t do. Flynn made the request after discussing it with deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, who was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and being told that Trump’s transition team did not want Russia to escalate the situation.

Flynn was forced to resign his post on Feb. 13, 2017, after news reports revealed that Obama administration officials had warned the Trump White House about Flynn’s false statements. The White House has said Flynn misled officials— including Vice President Mike Pence — about the content of his conversations.

Flynn also admitted to making false statements about unregistered foreign agent work he performed for the benefit of the Turkish government. Flynn was under investigation by the Justice Department for the work when he became national security adviser.


Local
U-Haul wants to buy Queensbury Kmart, create storage center

QUEENSBURY — The local Kmart store is going to become a self-storage and retail shop for U-Haul, according to federal bankruptcy court filings.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York is expected to take action on the proposed purchase, along with many other Sears and Kmart assets, by the end of the month.

The purchase would allow U-Haul to expand the business now at 112 Main St., Queensbury. There, customers can rent storage lockers or large u-boxes, which are placed in the customer’s driveway for a slow move-out. The boxes can be stored at U-Haul until the customer is ready to ship them to their new home.

U-Haul does not generally build new storefronts. It buys existing buildings for “adaptive reuse,” said spokesman Jeff Lockridge.

“We don’t tend to change the buildings very much,” he said. “Our U-Haul stores are not uniform. We have small U-Haul stores, we have large U-Haul stores. Part of the reason is we acquire existing buildings.”

The company likes to buy big-box stores, because the square footage creates plenty of storage space.

“The majority of that footage goes to self-storage,” Lockridge said.

The property, at 308 Dix Ave., is assessed at $4.9 million. It was built in 1993 and is 176,238 square feet (a little bigger than 4 acres or four football fields), according to town assessment records.

The location is within a few blocks of two other storage facilities.

For years, as Sears Holding closed its Sears and Kmart stores, the local store stayed open. As recently as last month, the local Kmart was not on the closure list. It has still not been officially announced.

The news came as a shock to shoppers Tuesday.

“I’m going to miss them, especially around the holidays,” said shopper Catherine Moore, of Hudson Falls. “Nobody else does layaway.”

The nearby Sears store, at Aviation Mall, closed Nov. 25, and the Sears store at Wilton Mall is reportedly closing in February.


Local
Second local dialysis center aims to serve growing patient population

KINGSBURY — A new dialysis center is on its way to becoming reality in Washington County.

A two-story home was torn down at 3739 Burgoyne Ave. in October to make way for the new 7,464-square-foot facility, according to the center’s building permit.

Kingsbury Town Supervisor Dana Hogan said he’d been advised that the groundbreaking would be in the spring.

Liberty RC, a licensed operator of chronic renal dialysis centers in New York, acting on behalf of the Cleve Hill Dialysis Center, originally filed a certificate of need application with the state Department of Health in 2016, outlining how Washington County is lacking a dialysis center. Dialysis involves treatments to help people with kidney problems.

In 2014 there were 65 Washington County residents with End Stage Renal Disease, according to the certificate of need application.

“In addition, Washington County has a rapidly growing elderly population,” the application noted. “The elderly use dialysis services at a higher rate than any other age group. The need for dialysis is expected to grow in the future with the overall aging population, as well as the increasing prevalence of diabetes. The applicant will employ an outreach program to ensure that all traditionally underserved residents will have access to this needed service.”

The property on Burgoyne Avenue, the application added, would be purchased by Genesis KC Development, a wholly owned subsidiary of DaVita HealthCare Partners. It plans to call the center Hudson Falls Dialysis.

The state Department of Health approved the certificate of need in July 2016, despite a letter from Glens Falls Hospital President and CEO Dianne Shugrue on July 28, 2016, protesting it. The Post-Star obtained the letter and other documents through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Glens Falls Hospital used to own a dialysis center on Broad Street in the city, which Shugrue pointed out is about 4.1 miles from where the new dialysis center would be constructed.

She said 95 patients from Washington County received dialysis treatment at Glens Falls Hospital in 2015, accounting for 33 percent of the center’s total volume and $2,598,830 in revenue.

“This for-profit dialysis center will be in direct competition with the Glens Falls Hospital Dialysis Center,” Shugrue wrote. “We will lose hemodialysis volume/revenue as well as the associated ancillaries that go with it (i.e. interventional radiology and surgical procedures). If our demographics and referrals patterns hold true, the patients in this proposed new dialysis center will present with emergency conditions to the Glens Falls Hospital Emergency Department as it is the local community hospital that serves the geographic population for these patients.”

Shugrue also took issue with DaVita HealthCare Partners’ plan to partner with Saratoga Hospital as a backup hospital for the proposed extension clinic, despite Saratoga Hospital being 23 miles away.

Erin Hammond, a representative with the office of governmental affairs with the Department of Health, wrote in an email that “the project was approved because it was financial(y) feasible, the operator is in current compliance, and there is a remaining need (of) 17 stations prior to the approval (3 after this approval). Currently there are NO dialysis centers in Washington County thus requiring all the residents needing dialysis to travel outside the county.”

Glens Falls Hospital announced late last year that it was selling its Broad Street dialysis center to Dialysis Clinic Inc., based out of Nashville. Shugrue said in a press release that DCI shares the hospital’s “community values and commitment to quality care.”

Tracy Mills, vice president of hospital planning, had also said last December that the hospital and DCI provide backup support for each other, and they “look forward to continuing and expanding our relationship.”

Neither the Glens Falls Hospital nor DCI returned The Post-Star‘s multiple requests for comment over the last week about the new Washington County dialysis center or where their relationships currently stand.

Meanwhile, Genesis KC Development was issued its building permit by Washington County on July 16. DaVita Healthcare declined to provide a timeline for the center’s construction, though the building permit lasts one year unless it is renewed.

A spokesperson for DaVita HealthCare said the center will include 14 dialysis chairs and one home peritoneal dialysis training room. It could serve up to 60 patients. She declined to provide more information, stating that details were still being finalized.

The building permit shows that the dialysis center will be constructed with steel and have a stucco exterior. It will be one floor with 35 rooms, one full bathroom, three half bathrooms and one electric fireplace. The certificate of need application states the project cost is in the realm of $2,812,169, though the application had then anticipated the building to be completed in November 2017.

Hogan said as long as all planning, zoning and state Health Department requirements are met, the town looks forward to the center’s presence in the community.


Local
Store owner catches scammer trying to capitalize on fire

HUDSON FALLS — Josh Warner opened a shop for his charity, Upstate New York’s Helping Hands, earlier this year to help those who are down and out.

He was happy to help a couple from Argyle who came to him on Monday, little more than a day after a fire destroyed their home.

But as the couple waited in a side room of his John Street shop, a woman came in the front door and said she was there on behalf of that very family, requesting toys and clothes for children.

Warner knew the Argyle couple did not have children, which he told the woman. He said she “scrambled” out of the store at that point.

“The family had never seen her before,” he said. “She was caught red-handed.”

The encounter was not overly surprising to Warner, a landscaping company owner who has come across many scam artists in the months since he set out to help the less fortunate and opened his shop.

He has had more than a dozen people come in claiming to be involved with efforts to aid fire victims or others in need of assistance, only to find out later that none of what the supposed good Samaritans had taken were turned over to those who need it.

He said numerous people came in and claimed to represent a Queensbury family that lost a home to fire last summer, and Warner later found out the family got very little of what was taken from his shop on their behalf.

“We learned our lesson on that one,” he said.

That has resulted in changes to policies and practices to weed our fraud, which include only dealing with two representatives of a family, Warner explained as partners John Rowland and Candace Adams worked to stock shelves and tables.

Warner said he is getting the surveillance video for Hudson Falls Police to try to identify the woman who tried to defraud him Monday, though it was unclear whether any charges were warranted.

Her picture will, at the least, be added to the “wall of shame” that sits above the front door, where pictures of those who stole donations from in front of the store have been posted.

The Argyle family who lost their home was in need of kitchen items, houseware items and gift cards for fuel, Warner said. Items can be dropped off at Upstate New York Helping Hands’ shop to pass on to them.

Warner, meanwhile, is gearing up for his first Christmas season with his store, having set up special sections for children in need to find gifts for children and parents to get presents for kids. There is no fee for the items.