- Former national security adviser Michael Flynn filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea in the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe on Tuesday.
- The motion said he was withdrawing his plea “because of the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.”
- Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to the FBI. Since then, he cooperated extensively with the government and, as prosecutors previously said, provided “substantial assistance” in the Russia probe and other ongoing investigations.
- But Flynn shifted to a more combative stance last year when he fired his legal team and hired new defence attorneys who tried to get his case thrown out.
- The Justice Department subsequently withdrew its request that Flynn be sentenced to probation and asked that he be sentenced to at least six months in prison.
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Former national security adviser Michael Flynn filed a motion through his lawyers on Tuesday to withdraw his guilty plea in the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to the FBI and had been cooperating with prosecutors since then. He participated in 19 interviews with Mueller’s team and prosecutors working on other federal criminal investigations. But Flynn switched course when he hired a new legal team that has been trying to get his case dismissed.
Flynn’s motion on Tuesday comes a week before his sentencing hearing. His new legal team said the former national security adviser and three-star general was withdrawing his plea “because of the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.”
The Justice Department reversed its recommendation for Flynn to only receive probation and asked a federal judge to sentence him to up to six months in prison.
They made the request because they claimed Flynn was no longer showing the remorse he once did when they initially made a sentencing recommendation and that he had now taken on a more combative posture.
“Far from accepting the consequences of his unlawful actions, he has sought to blame almost every other person and entity involved in his case, including his former counsel,” prosecutors wrote in a memo to US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. “Most blatantly, the defendant now professes his innocence.”
They zeroed in on Flynn’s actions related to a separate Justice Department federal criminal case against Bijan Rafiekian, an Iranian-American businessman and Flynn’s former business associate who worked with him to lobby the US on behalf of the Turkish government.
Prosecutors said that Flynn hurt the US’s case against Rafiekian by changing his testimony right before Rafiekian’s trial last year.
“Given the serious nature of the defendant’s offence, his apparent failure to accept responsibility, his failure to complete his cooperation in – and his affirmative efforts to undermine – the prosecution of Bijan Rafiekian, and the need to promote respect for the law and adequately deter such criminal conduct, the government recommends that the court sentence the defendant within the applicable Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration,” the Justice Department said.
The shift in prosecutors’ recommendation represented a stark change from their stance in December 2018, when they said the former national security adviser had provided “substantial assistance” to the Mueller probe and other ongoing criminal investigations.
At the time, they emphasised that Flynn began cooperating early, that his assistance was critical in encouraging other witnesses to come forward and be candid, and that he helped the Russia investigation in several ways.
Now, they say they do not believe Flynn “should receive credit for acceptance of responsibility. 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.”
Flynn’s lawyers, meanwhile, said in their motion to withdraw his guilty plea on Tuesday that the Justice Department is trying to “rewrite history” by reversing its recommendation that he be sentenced to probation.
“Michael T. Flynn is innocent. Mr. Flynn has cooperated with the government in good faith for two years. He gave the prosecution his full cooperation,” the motion said.
“He endured massive, unnecessary, and frankly counterproductive demands on his time, his family, his scarce resources, and his life,” it continued. “The same cannot be said for the prosecution which has operated in bad faith from the inception of the ‘investigation’ and continues relentlessly through this specious prosecution.”