The defense lawyer for Michael Flynn told a judge on Tuesday that she talked about his criminal case in a meeting with President Donald Trump, who has been highly critical of the prosecution of his former national security advisor.
Sidney Powell, Flynn’s lawyer, told Judge Emmet Sullivan that during the conversation she asked Trump not to grant Flynn a pardon while she continued her fight to get the judge to grant the highly unusual request by the Justice Department to dismiss the case.
Powell, speaking during a hearing in Washington, D.C., federal court, said she spoke with Trump and a White House lawyer one time in recent weeks about the case.
“I provided the White House with an update on the overall status of the litigation,” Powell said.
“I never discussed this case with the president until recently when I asked him not to issue a pardon and gave him a general update of the status of the litigation,” Powell said.
Flynn pleaded guilty nearly three years ago to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. The case sprang out of a broad investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But Flynn so far has not been sentenced because of an unprecedented series of events that have included Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, seeking to toss out the case and being resisted — at least until now — by the judge in the case, Sullivan.
The White House declined to comment on Powell’s statement.
The hearing Tuesday is being held to consider the Justice Department’s dismissal request.
The department, which for more than a year had defended the legitimacy of its prosecution of Flynn, abruptly said last spring that it determined that there was not a legitimate reason for the FBI to have questioned Flynn.
Powell’s disclosure of meeting with Trump came in response to a question from Sullivan, who had asked if she had spoken to the president about the case.
She at first balked at answering him, arguing that she would be barred from doing so by executive privilege.
But Powell then provided details of what she had told Trump when Sullivan pointed out that she was not an employee of the executive branch of the U.S. government.
Powell later during the hearing asked Sullivan to recuse himself from the case, on grounds that included the judge opposing her prior appeal of his refusal to grant Flynn a prompt dismissal.
Sullivan, seeming annoyed, waved aside her request, telling her to put it in writing in a court filing.
Flynn, who is a retired Army lieutenant general, only briefly served as Trump’s first national security advisor.
He was fired after lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents who had questioned him about his talks with Kislyak.
Flynn admitted falsely telling agents that he and Kislyak had not discussed the need for Russia not to retaliate against the United States for sanctions put on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration as punishment for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn’s originally scheduled sentencing in December 2018 was aborted after Sullivan angrily admonished him, telling Flynn he had “arguably” sold out his country, and after the judge indicated he was considering sending Flynn to jail for his crime.
The judge then suspended the sentencing, saying he wanted to give Flynn more time to complete his cooperation with then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and possible collusion with that meddling by members of Trump’s campaign.
Flynn cooperated for several more months, but then hired a new lawyer and began laying the groundework to undo his guilty plea.
The Justice Department, which had opposed his efforts to have the case tossed out, earlier this year abruptly abandoned that position, and asked Sullivan to dismiss the case, a move that drew widespread criticism by Democrats and former prosecutors.
Sullivan did not act on that dismissal request. Instead, the judge appointed a former federal judge, the lawyer John Gleeson, to make arguments opposing that request, to be considered by Sullivan in deciding whether to toss out the charge, or move to sentence Flynn.
Gleeson advised Sullivan that the case should not be dismissed, arguing that the Justice Department had engaged in “a gross abuse of prosecutorial power.”
“The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President,” Gleeson wrote.
Flynn and the Justice Department then filed an appeal, asking a three-judge appeals panel to compel dismissal of the case, arguing that Sullivan had overstepped his authority.
That panel agreed, and ordered the dismissal.
But Sullivan then appealed that dismissal.
Earlier this month, a panel of most of the judges on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the smaller panel’s order, and sent the case back to Sullivan for consideration.
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