First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Michael Flynn Fires His Attorneys Ahead of His Sentenci...

Newsdeck

Newsdeck

Michael Flynn Fires His Attorneys Ahead of His Sentencing

By Bloomberg
06 Jun 2019 0

Michael Flynn, who lied to investigators at the outset of what became Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, dismissed the lawyers who have represented him since he was charged and pleaded guilty in 2017.

The disclosure came in a Washington federal court filing on Thursday, which informed the court that Flynn was replacing attorney Robert Kelner and another Covington & Burling LLP lawyer with new counsel, whom he didn’t identify. It isn’t clear why Flynn made the change so late in the process, with only his sentencing remaining.

Kelner declined to comment on the switch.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army general, was to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in December. The punishment was postponed after Sullivan learned in court that Flynn, who was President Donald Trump’s original national security adviser, was still cooperating with prosecutors. The judge told Flynn he wouldn’t get the full benefit of that assistance until it was complete. The sentencing hasn’t yet been rescheduled.

More: Flynn’s Risk of Prison Resurfaces as Judge Flags ‘Serious’ Crime

“Clients in criminal cases can be unpredictable and changes in counsel are not uncommon,” said Doug Burns, a white-collar defense lawyer in New York who’s not involved in the case. Relationships can rupture over fee disputes, disagreements in strategy or simply the belief that one can get a better outcome with someone else, he said.

The move may suggest that Flynn will try to withdraw his guilty plea, Burns said. But withdrawing a plea is difficult without identifying “significant new information” that’s not already before the court, he added. The final decision rests with Sullivan.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about conversations he’d had with then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office. They discussed the Kremlin’s response to election interference-related sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama and a United Nations vote concerning Israel.

On the same day as the aborted sentencing, Flynn’s former business partner, Bijan Kian, pleaded not guilty to charges he engaged in illegal lobbying for the government of Turkey. Flynn admitted to doing so as well when he entered his guilty plea in December 2017, though he wasn’t charged with that offense. He will likely testify at Kian’s trial, now set for July 15 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Flynn’s change of lawyers comes less than a week after prosecutors, at Sullivan’s request, filed the transcript of a November 2017 voicemail left for Kelner by former Trump lawyer John Dowd concerning the former general’s cooperation with Mueller’s prosecutors.

Here’s the Audio of Trump Lawyer’s Voicemail for Flynn’s Camp

In it, Dowd asked Flynn’s attorney to provide him with a “heads up” if Flynn was going to give damaging information, according to the transcript. The alert was for the sake of “protecting all our interests, if we can, without you having to give up any … confidential information,” Dowd said.

Trump’s lawyer also said he understood that Flynn couldn’t take part in a joint defense agreement, according to the transcript, but that if “there’s information that … implicates the president … then we’ve got national security issues, or maybe a national security issue, I don’t know … some issue, we got to deal with, not only for the president, but for the country.”

Dowd called the transcript “a baseless, political document designed to smear and damage the reputation of counsel and innocent people.”

More: Trump Lawyer Sought ‘Heads Up’ From Flynn, Transcript Shows

The case is U.S. v. Flynn, 17-cr-232, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). DM

Gallery

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted