A U.S. judge on Monday flatly rejected a last-ditch bid by President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn to get the criminal charges to which he already pleaded guilty dropped, brushing aside his claims of misconduct by prosecutors and the FBI.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered Flynn to appear for sentencing on Jan. 28, concluding that the retired Army lieutenant general had failed to prove a “single” violation by the prosecution or FBI officials of withholding evidence that could exonerate him.
Sullivan’s 92-page ruling represented a major blow to Flynn, who has tried to backpedal since he pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn’s sworn statements in his plea agreement “belie his new claims of innocence,” Sullivan wrote.
“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 (Mike Pence) and senior White House officials, who, in turn, repeated Mr. Flynn’s false statements to the American people on national television,” the judge wrote.
Flynn was one of several former Trump aides to plead guilty or be convicted at trial in then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump’s candidacy as well as numerous contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Flynn was previously supposed to have been sentenced by Sullivan in December 2018, but Sullivan fiercely criticized Flynn and accused him of selling out his country.
At the time, Sullivan appeared poised to sentence Flynn to prison. But then Sullivan instead gave Flynn the option of delaying the sentencing so the former national security adviser could fully cooperate with any pending investigations, including testifying in the Virginia trial of his former business partner Bijan Rafiekian on charges of illegally lobbying for Turkey.
The plans for him to testify, however, later evaporated.
Flynn, who Trump fired just weeks after taking office, dismissed his former lawyers on the case and tapped Sidney Powell, a frequent Fox News guest who has often expressed hostility toward the FBI and Mueller.
Her combative and aggressive approach led to a falling out with prosecutors, who ultimately decided not to call Flynn as a witness in the Rafiekian trial after Powell contended that Flynn would not testify to “knowingly” submitting false statements to the Justice Department when he retroactively registered as a lobbyist for Turkey.
Rafiekian verdict overturned
A federal judge in September overturned a jury verdict convicting Rafiekian.
Powell has filed a flurry of requests with the court to try to force the Justice Department to turn over troves of records that she said would show the FBI conducted an “ambush” interview of Flynn and withheld evidence that could exonerate him.
“The court summarily disposes of Mr. Flynn’s arguments that the FBI conducted an ambush interview for the purpose of trapping him into making false statements and that the government pressured him to enter a guilty plea,” Sullivan wrote in the ruling. “The record proves otherwise.”
Sullivan took aim at Powell in his ruling as well, saying one of the lawyer’s legal briefs had plagiarized another source by lifting “verbatim portions from a source without attribution” and noted that such conduct violates the District of Columbia’s rules for attorneys.
FBI has support of judge
The judge’s ruling bolstered the FBI’s handling of the Flynn
investigation a week after the agency was criticized by the Justice Department’s inspector general for the manner in which it handled its applications to a specialized court to obtain a 2016 wiretap of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Sullivan’s ruling came a day before another judge is scheduled to sentence Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who also pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mueller. Gates cooperated extensively with prosecutors.