Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea on Tuesday after federal prosecutors recommended he serve up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI.
Flynn’s legal team accused the federal government of breaching a plea agreement and acting in “bad faith” after the Justice Department said last week the former aide had grown uncooperative and attempted to get his charges dismissed, rather than own up to his actions. The move was a sharp rebuke to Flynn and his new attorneys, who have spent months lambasting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“The prosecution has shown abject bad faith in pure retaliation against Mr. Flynn since he retained new counsel,” Flynn’s attorneys wrote in the motion. “This can only be because with new, unconflicted counsel, Mr. Flynn refused to lie for the prosecution. In pure spite, the government retaliated.”
The motion later noted: “Justice is not a game, and there should be no room for such gamesmanship in the Department of Justice.”
Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI investigators about his conversations with Russian officials. At the time, he agreed to help Mueller’s investigation as it worked to determine if anyone in Trump’s orbit conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Prosecutors in turn didn’t push for Flynn to serve any prison time, calling him a “particularly valuable” font of information.
But prosecutors said Flynn grew increasingly unhelpful over the past year, writing this month that he has “sought to blame almost every other person and entity involved in his case, including his former counsel.”
“The defendant has also chosen to reverse course and challenge the elements and circumstances of his false statements to the FBI,” prosecutors wrote.
Flynn lost an effort to get his charges dismissed last month after a judge filed an exhaustive, 92-page ruling rebuffing a series of accusations that his conviction was rife with misconduct.
In its recommendations last week, the Justice Department also noted that others who have pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in the Russia inquiry have been sentenced to prison time, notably former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and the lawyer Alex van der Zwaan.
“Neither defendant was a high-ranking government official, held a position of trust vis-à-vis the United States, held a security clearance, had a special understanding of the impact of providing misleading information to investigators or denied responsibility for his unlawful conduct,” prosecutors said.
Flynn is set to be sentenced on Jan. 28, although his attorneys asked for that date to be rescheduled to late February.