President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday for lying to the FBI about his dealings with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a court proceeding that could be complicated by his attorneys’ recent suggestion that he was duped by law enforcement.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike had urged that Flynn face no prison time for his crime, noting that he was an early cooperator in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and had provided information useful to several other ongoing probes. That might have made for an uneventful hearing.
But in their sentencing submission, Flynn’s attorneys suggested he might have been fooled into lying to the FBI because he had not been warned in advance that doing so is a crime. That prompted the judge to request more documents, and the special counsel’s office last week vigorously pushed back on the idea that Flynn was mistreated.
“The Court should reject the defendant’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI,” prosecutors wrote. “Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI.”
Flynn will probably make a personal plea for U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to show him leniency, and it is possible the judge will press him on how fully he accepts responsibility for the crime to which he has pleaded guilty. A concession could disappoint supporters, who for months have advanced the notion that Flynn was wronged, though reluctance to admit guilt could prompt the judge to send Flynn to prison.
Flynn pleaded guilty in Mueller’s probe more than a year ago, admitting that he lied to the FBI about conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States at the time. Flynn had talked with the diplomat in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration about efforts to blunt Obama administration policy decisions – on sanctions against Russia and a U.N. resolution on Israel.
The lies – which prosecutors said Flynn repeated to Vice President Mike Pence and The Washington Post, among others – ultimately cost Flynn his job. Flynn said as a part of his plea that in talking to Kislyak, he was acting in consultation with senior Trump transition officials, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. No evidence has publicly emerged, however, that they told him to lie to investigators.
Flynn also admitted in his plea deal that he had lied about his business dealings with the Turkish government. On Monday, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia charged two of Flynn’s associates with acting as agents of a foreign government and detailed how the trio had worked during the heart of Trump’s campaign to persuade the United States to expel a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Matt Zapotosky, Spencer S. Hsu