WASHINGTON–Federal prosecutors softened their position in a new sentencing recommendation for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, now suggesting that probation could be an “appropriate” sentence for the retired Army general.
The filing represents a slight departure from a filing earlier this month in which the government recommended a sentence of up to six months in prison when Flynn and his legal team turned on federal prosecutors after pleading guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Russia ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Since then, Flynn has sought to withdraw his guilty plea, even though a federal judge rejected the retired Army generals’ claims that prosecutors forced him to plead guilty and hid evidence that would’ve exonerated him.
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Flynn and his attorney, conservative lawyer and frequent Fox News commentator Sidney Powell, have accused the Justice Department and the FBI of conspiring to frame the former combat veteran.
Flynn pleaded guilty two years ago to lying to the FBI about his communications with Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the U.S., in the weeks before Trump took office.
Prosecutors charged that Flynn lied to FBI agents when he told them he did not discuss sanctions against Russia with Kislyak, and when he said he did not ask Kislyak to delay a vote on a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements.
On Wednesday, prosecutors stood by their suggested sentencing range of zero to six months, but added that the range should include “a sentence of probation.”
Before Flynn’s first scheduled sentencing in December 2018, prosecutors lauded his cooperation with Mueller’s inquiry–noting he had met with investigators 19 times – and his record of exemplary public service.
“The defendant’s record of military and public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged as part of the (special counsel’s) investigation,” prosecutors wrote then.
The first sentencing was postponed after a contentious hearing in which U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan questioned why Flynn’s case would be wrapped up when the government still needed his cooperation in a separate case involving a former business partner.
Sullivan then went on to savage Flynn’s criminal conduct, at one point questioning the retired general’s patriotism.
“Arguably, you sold your country out,” Sullivan said. “I cannot assure you that, if you proceed today, you will not be sentenced to a period of incarceration.”
The judge suggested Flynn seek a sentencing delay until his cooperation was complete so it could count in his favor.
After that hearing, Flynn hired Powell and went from cooperating with the government to challenging its tactics.
A new sentencing date has been scheduled for Feb. 27.