russia probe Drama unfolds as Flynn gets sentenced today
Hearing slated for today
Michael Flynn may have given extraordinary cooperation to prosecutors, but the run-up to his sentencing hearing today has exposed raw tensions over an FBI interview in which the former national security adviser lied about his Russian contacts.
Flynn’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.”
The mere insinuation of underhanded tactics was 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 professor.
Until the dueling memos were filed last week, the sentencing hearing for Flynn – who pleaded guilty to lying about a conversation during the transition period with the then-Russian ambassador – was expected to be devoid of the drama characterizing other of Mueller’s cases.
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.
Flynn, by contrast, has been notably silent even as his supporters advocated a more combative stance. He met privately with investigators 19 times and provided cooperation so extensive that prosecutors said he was entitled to avoid prison altogether.
Then came his sentencing memo.
Although Flynn and his attorneys stopped short of any direct accusations of wrongdoing, they took pains to note that Flynn, unlike other defendants in Mueller’s investigation, was not informed that it was against the law to lie to the FBI.
They suggest the FBI, which approached Flynn at the White House just days after Trump’s inauguration, played to his desire to keep the encounter quiet by telling him the quickest way to get the interview done was for him to be alone with the agents – rather than involve lawyers.
They also insinuate that Flynn, of Middletown, R.I., 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.