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2020-01-16 10:50:361 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Michael Flynn (Image source: Public domain)
It appears at this point as if former national security adviser Michael Flynn may never be sentenced. As one of the first in former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation to plead guilty and take a deal, he still has not been sentenced. And now he is planning on withdrawing his guilty plea.
Flynn was fired by Donald Trump just a few weeks after his inauguration. He'd been caught lying to Vice President Michael Pence and the FBI about his conversations in December 2016 with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. That December he accepted a plea deal and pledged to work with prosecutors. He is due to be sentenced in two weeks.
This week he asked a federal judge for permission to withdraw that guilty plea, stating that prosecutors breached the plea deal when they demanded he give false testimony. A change in plea needs to be approved by a judge.
Flynn's attorneys allege that after he switched attorneys last June, prosecutors demanded that he lie and say he knowingly lied in filing forms with the Justice Department and hid his lobbying firm's work with Turkey.
"Michael T. Flynn hereby moves to withdraw his plea because of the government's bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement," wrote defense attorney Sidney Powell.
He asked U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington to postpone his client's sentencing until at least February 27 "to allow time for the government to respond ... and for Mr. Flynn to provide the additional briefing he needs to protect the record and his constitutional rights."
This request, though, happens to come at a very convenient time. Just one week ago prosecutors recommended that he serve up to six months in prison after earlier recommending probation. Prosecutors made the change because of Flynn's attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department.
However, Sullivan rejected Flynn's claims that he'd been tricked into pleading guilty
"It is clear that the defendant has not learned his lesson. He has behaved as though the law does not apply to him and as if there are no consequences for his actions," prosecutor Brandon Van Grack wrote, adding that the government no longer see his cooperation as "substantial."
Initially, Flynn was scheduled to be sentenced in December 2018, with prosecutors saying he deserved probation for his "substantial assistance" in the Russia investigation. He admitted he had been in touch with senior Trump transition officials before and after his meeting with Kislyak to discuss removing then-President Barack Obama's decision to hit Russia with sanctions.
At that originally-scheduled sentencing, Sullivan gave Flynn's attorneys a verbal takedown for seemingly playing down his offenses. Under questioning, Flynn admitted under oath that he was guilty. "Arguably, you sold your country out," said the judge, warning he was likely to give him time in prison and suggesting he delay his sentencing at that time.
Conveniently, Flynn switched his legal team last summer. The new team asked Sullivan to find prosecutors in contempt, accusing them of entrapping Flynn into pleading guilty.
Additionally, the former national security adviser went against prosecutors in the trail of his former business partner Bijan Rafiekian, charged with illegal lobbying for Turkey. He would have been the star witness, but just before the trial, he claimed that prosecutors wanted him to lie. Rafiekian was convicted without his testimony, and the conviction was thrown out because of "insufficient" evidence.
Flynn's legal team repeated what had been said last summer and said it was only after he switched his attorneys that prosecutors demanded he lie. "Not only was that demanded testimony a lie, but also, the prosecutors knew it was false and would induce a breach," said Powell.
It all seems to convenient at this point. Flynn was all ready to accept sentencing and admit to his guilt, but once Sullivan was disgusted by him and suggested he was likely to give him prison time instead of probation. Flynn found new attorneys, and that's when prosecutors were accused of forcing him to lie.
Then one week after they announced they wanted him to serve prison time, he suddenly wants to remove his guilty plea. But nothing will change the he lied to the FBI and Pence.
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