Michael Flynn has fired his lawyers and replaced them with new representation, a seemingly significant development as President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE's first national security adviser awaits sentencing for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
A court filing Thursday revealed that Flynn had notified his attorneys Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony that he is “terminating Covington & Burling LLP as his counsel and has already retained new counsel for this matter.”
It was not immediately clear why Flynn has replaced his lawyers, or with whom. Anthony and Kelner declined to comment in an email when asked by The Hill for more information about the developments.
Kelner and Anthony wrote in the filing Thursday that Judge Emmet Sullivan has the power to deny their motion to withdraw as counsel but argued their removal “would not be prejudicial to any of the parties or otherwise inconsistent with the interests of justice.”
Sullivan later denied the motion on technical grounds, saying it failed to comply with local court rules that require motions be accompanied by a proposed order. Flynn's attorneys are likely to refile the motion.
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s investigation.
Flynn provided significant assistance in the probe, and Mueller has recommended he serve a lenient sentence.
Flynn was supposed to be sentenced last December but chose to delay it after Sullivan excoriated him for his crimes in court and suggested he was prepared to sentence the former national security adviser to jail time.
Flynn also cooperated in the investigation of his former business partner Bijan Kian, who has been charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Turkish government. Kian pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to face a trial in July; Flynn is expected to testify against him.
Thursday’s news is the latest in a series of recent developments in Flynn’s case as he continues to await sentencing for one count of making false statements. Prosecutors filed a new version of Flynn’s December sentencing memo last month, which revealed he provided information in connection with Mueller’s inquiry into obstruction of justice in addition to providing “substantial assistance” in the investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Flynn’s case erupted into drama last December after his attorneys suggested Flynn had been wronged by the FBI agents who interviewed him in a filing arguing that he should receive no jail time.
The developments amplified a theory among conservatives that Flynn had been entrapped by the FBI and unfairly entangled in Mueller’s probe.
Sullivan said at the hearing last December that the filing concerned him because it called into question Flynn’s “acceptance of his guilty plea.” Flynn’s attorneys scrambled to clarify they didn’t believe Flynn was entrapped by the FBI and reiterated that their client accepted responsibility for his crime.
Sullivan was highly critical of Flynn in court, at one point asking prosecutors whether they considered charging him with treason.
“This is a very serious offense,” Sullivan said at the Dec. 18 hearing. “A high-ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while on the physical premises of the White House.”
At the end of the hearing, Flynn elected to delay his sentencing until he was completely finished cooperating with the government.
Flynn’s case was transferred to prosecutors in Washington, D.C., after Mueller finished his investigation and submitted his final report in late March. His sentencing has not been scheduled but is expected sometime after Kian’s trial in the Eastern District of Virginia next month. The next status report in Flynn’s case is due on June 14.
Mueller’s report provides exhaustive details about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and episodes of potential obstruction by President Trump, and Flynn’s name is referenced heavily throughout it.
The special counsel did not charge members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election; Mueller also did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.
—Updated at 4:59 p.m.