Feds recommend six-month prison term for Michael Flynn
The Justice Department is recommending that former national security adviser Michael Flynn be sentenced to up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI, telling a court that the former Trump adviser has been uncooperative in recent months.
“The sentence should adequately deter the defendant from violating the law, and to promote respect for the law,” the Justice Department wrote in a sentencing memo Tuesday. “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.”
Flynn had pleaded guilty two years ago and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But he has since become more combative and last year unsuccessfully tried to revoke his plea.
He has backed out of a plea agreement with prosecutors, who dropped him as a trial witness last year against his former business partner Bijan Rafiekian over charges that he had lied to the government about their firm’s work for the Turkish government.
“It is a very sad day for justice,” Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, said in an emailed statement to The Hill. “The government wanted General Flynn to lie in the Rafiekian case. He refused to do that. The prosecution’s new position is an outrage.”
A federal jury convicted Rafiekian last year before the trial judge later tossed the charges due to insufficient evidence.
In December, a federal judge dismissed Flynn’s accusations that the special counsel’s office had engaged in a politically-motivated scheme against him and coerced him into pleading guilty.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to law enforcement investigators in 2017 about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during Trump’s transition as the Obama administration was imposing sanctions against the Kremlin for trying to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.
As part of his plea agreement with former special counsel Robert Mueller, Flynn, who served as Trump’s national security adviser for just a few weeks in 2017, promised to cooperate with the investigation into the Trump administration.
In December 2018, prosecutors filed an initial sentencing memo to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, noting Flynn’s cooperation and recommending a lenient sentence.
But Tuesday’s filing revoked that recommendation, arguing that the former three-star Army general has grown less repentant about his actions in the past year.
“Based on the defendant’s conduct since the time of the December 18, 2018, sentencing hearing, the government also does not believe the defendant should receive credit for acceptance of responsibility,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote. “Indeed, the government has reason to believe, through representations by the defendant’s counsel, that the defendant has retreated from his acceptance of responsibility in this case regarding his lies to the FBI.”
Last year, Flynn fired his defense team from the prestigious law firm Covington & Burling LLP and hired Sidney Powell, a conservative firebrand and former federal prosecutor.
He then alleged prosecutorial misconduct against the Justice Department and asked the court to throw out his plea. Sullivan rejected those accusations last month in a lengthy decision that refuted those arguments point by point.
“The sworn statements of Mr. Flynn and his former counsel belie his new claims of innocence and his new assertions that he was pressured into pleading guilty to making materially false statements to the FBI,” Sullivan wrote.
“And it is undisputed that Mr. Flynn not only made those false statements to the FBI agents, but he also made the same false statements to the Vice President and senior White House officials, who, in turn, repeated Mr. Flynn’s false statements to the American people on national television,” the judge added.
The Justice Department urged Sullivan to take into account Flynn’s recent change in attitude as well as his participation in the lobbying operation on behalf of Iran, that prosecutors say went undisclosed in violation of foreign lobbying registration laws.
That lobbying work included publishing an opinion piece in The Hill on Nov. 8, 2016, urging the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric living in self-exile in Pennsylvania who has been an outspoken critic of his country’s government and was accused of organizing an attempted coup in 2016.
The Hill later attached an editor’s note to the piece pointing out that it had been revealed that Flynn at the time was working for a company owned by a Turkish businessman with ties to that country’s government officials.
Flynn will be sentenced on Jan. 28.
Updated at 2:25 p.m.