Flynn Heads to Sentencing Hearing 12/18 06:24
Michael Flynn will likely walk out of a courtroom a free man due to his
extensive cooperation with federal prosecutors, but the run-up to his
sentencing hearing Tuesday has exposed raw tensions over an FBI interview in
which he lied about his Russian contacts.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Flynn will likely walk out of a courtroom a free
man due to his extensive cooperation with federal prosecutors, but the run-up
to his sentencing hearing Tuesday has exposed raw tensions over an FBI
interview in which he lied about his Russian contacts.
The former national security adviser's lawyers have suggested that
investigators discouraged him from having an attorney present during the
January 2017 interview and never informed him it was a crime to lie.
Prosecutors shot back, "He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to
federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth."
On Monday evening, the dispute--- and a judge's intervention--- led
prosecutors to publicly file a redacted copy of the notes from Flynn's FBI
interview that largely bolster the case, showing he told agents things he later
said were false.
Still, the mere insinuation of underhanded tactics has been startling given
the seemingly productive relationship between the two sides, and it was
especially striking since prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller's
office have praised Flynn's cooperation and recommended against prison time.
The defense arguments spurred speculation that Flynn may be trying to get
sympathy from President Donald Trump or may be playing to a judge known for a
zero-tolerance view of government misconduct.
"It's an attempt, I think, to perhaps characterize Flynn as a victim or
perhaps to make him look sympathetic in the eyes of a judge --- and, at the
same time, to portray the special counsel in a negative light," said former
federal prosecutor Jimmy Gurule, a University of Notre Dame law school
Until the dueling memos were filed last week, Flynn had cooperated
extensively and largely eschewed the aggressive tactics of others involved in
the Mueller probe.
Prosecutors, for instance, have accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul
Manafort of lying to them even after he agreed to cooperate. Another potential
target, Jerome Corsi, leaked draft court documents and accused Mueller's team
of bullying him. And George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser recently
released from a two-week prison sentence, has lambasted the investigation and
publicly claimed that he was set up.
But then came Flynn's sentencing memo.
Although Flynn and his attorneys stopped short of any direct accusations of
wrongdoing, but they suggested the FBI, which approached Flynn at the White
House just days after Trump's inauguration, played to his desire to keep the
encounter quiet and as a result kept him from involving a lawyer.
They also insinuated that Flynn deserves credit for not publicly seizing on
the fact that FBI officials involved in the investigation later came under
scrutiny themselves. Former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who contacted Flynn
to arrange the interview, was fired this year for what the Justice Department
said was a lack of candor over a news media leak. Peter Strzok, one of the two
agents who interviewed Flynn, was removed from Mueller's team and later fired
for trading anti-Trump texts with another FBI official.
Mueller's team has sharply pushed back at any suggestion that Flynn was
duped, with prosecutors responding that as a high-ranking military officer
steeped in national security issues Flynn "knows he should not lie to federal
Trump has made no secret that he sees Mueller's investigation as a "witch
hunt" and has continued to lash out at prosecutors he sees as biased against
him and those who help them. He's shown continued sympathy for Flynn, though,
calling him a "great person" and asserting erroneously last week that the FBI
said he didn't lie.
Flynn has not tried to retract his guilty plea, and there's every indication
the sentencing will proceed as scheduled.
Arun Rao, a former Justice Department prosecutor in Maryland, said the
defense memo is striking because it's "inconsistent" with Flynn's cooperative
stance so far.
"You also wonder in this very unusual situation," he said, "whether it is a
play for a pardon."
It's also possible that at least some of the defense arguments may resonate
with U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who was the judge in the Justice
Department's botched prosecution of now-deceased Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of
Alaska. He dismissed the case after prosecutors admitted that they withheld
exculpatory evidence, prompting the judge to say that in nearly 25 years on the
bench, "I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct
that I've seen in this case."
In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal last year, Sullivan said the
case inspired him to explicitly remind prosecutors in every criminal case
before him of their obligation to provide defendants with favorable evidence.
He says he has encouraged colleagues to do the same.
In Flynn's case, he directed prosecutors to produce FBI records at the
center of his case, including portions of the notes from his Jan. 24, 2017, FBI
The notes, publicly filed Monday evening, show that FBI agents interviewed
Flynn about his contacts with Russia, including his past trips to the country
and his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia's ambassador to the U.S.
The notes show Flynn told agents he didn't ask Kislyak not to escalate
Russia's response to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in response
to election interference. But Flynn admitted in court papers last year that he
The notes also show Flynn told agents he didn't ask Kislyak to see if Russia
would vote a certain way on a United Nations resolution involving Israeli
settlements. But in court papers last year he admitted that he did ask Kislyak
to see if Russia would vote against or delay the resolution. Court papers show
Flynn made that request at the direction of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
It's unclear what impact, if any, the notes will have on Sullivan's