Flynn's sentencing delayed again so new lawyer can study up

By Darren Samuelsohn, Josh Gerstein and Natasha Bertrand

Michael Flynn’s sentencing has been delayed — again.

The latest postponement is the result of a legal switch Trump's former national security adviser made recently, firing his group of attorneys in favor of Sidney Powell, an outspoken critic of special counsel Robert Mueller.

At a hearing Monday, Powell said she needs at least another 90 days to get up to speed on the case before Flynn receives his punishment for pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with a top Russian official.

“There are more moving pieces in this representation than there are in the movement of an old-fashioned Swiss watch,” Powell told the court.

The judge overseeing the case, Emmett Sullivan, decided to essentially grant Powell two months, ordering another status report at the end of August.

Powell said she needed the extra time to work her way through three hard drives delivered from Flynn’s former lawyers.

“And there’s still more to come,” she said, during a separate Monday morning hearing at which Sullivan considered a Washington Post request to remove several redactions made in court filings tied to the Flynn case.

Powell took over earlier this month as Flynn’s lead lawyer. Given Powell's prior Mueller criticism, the move prompted speculation Flynn is making a play for a pardon from President Donald Trump, who hailed Powell on Twitter as a “GREAT LAWYER” after the hire. Flynn has not given a reason for firing his previous attorneys.

Monday afternoon, Flynn also made his first court appearance since a contentious December hearing that ended with an unexpected delay in his sentencing.

At the gathering, Powell said she and Flynn's other attorneys are working on getting a security clearance to review classified documents as part of Flynn's case.

That appeared to confuse federal prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, who told Sullivan that the government never provided any classified material to the defense as part of the discovery process. He noted that of the 20,000 pages of documents the government handed over, none of them were marked classified.

As such, “the government is not aware of what the defense is reviewing," Van Grack said. Sullivan said he'd leave it up to Flynn's lawyers, the government, and the court's classified information security officer to determine next steps.

Sullivan also denied a request by Powell to ease Flynn's travel restrictions and allow him to travel without further permission to California, Texas and North Carolina, saying that he didn't want it to seem like he was giving Flynn "special treatment

“It’s a high-profile case. There are many eyes watching this case,” the judge said.

At the beginning of Monday's status hearing, Sullivan thanked Powell for her kind words about him in her 2014 book "License to Lie," in which she praised him for his handling of a public corruption case against former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens nearly a decade ago.

Sullivan added that he had checked with his colleagues about whether he needed to recuse from the case now that Powell is Flynn's lawyer, but was advised against it.

Sullivan has not been sympathetic to Flynn during the court proceedings. He has criticized the former Trump aide over his role in the Russia saga, and told him at the December hearing: “Arguably, you sold your country out.”

Sullivan during that hearing was expected to hand down Flynn’s sentence, but at the last minute he instead suggested the defendant take more time to fulfill his cooperation obligations to the government.

Since then, attorneys for Flynn and the federal government have three times requested delays in sentencing, including one made earlier this month for an additional 60 days.

Powell said during the status hearing that Flynn's cooperation is "fully ongoing" in the government’s upcoming trial against his former business partner, Bijan Rafiekian, which is set to start on July 15. Rafiekian was indicted last December for acting as an unregistered agent for Turkey in the U.S. and a related conspiracy charge.

Flynn is expected to testify at the trial. Defense attorneys for Rafiekian have signaled that they plan a major attack on Flynn, and will accuse him of being a serial liar.

Powell said preparing for that testimony is her main task at the moment.

“All my attention between now and then is going go be focused on that,” she told Sullivan.

Flynn said little publicly Monday, but seemed in good spirits during his courtroom appearance. At the outset of the hearing, the judge asked Flynn how he was doing. “Great!” he replied loudly.

Following the brief court session, Flynn and his new attorneys retreated to an attorney lounge in the courthouse, spending nearly two hours behind closed doors as reporters lingered in the hallway and camera crews stood by outside. At one point, the retired Army general poked his head out to try to find one of his brothers who accompanied him to the hearing.

Emerging from the courthouse into the afternoon Washington heat, Flynn and his legal team rebuffed requests for comment. The former national security adviser glared at a reporter who asked why he abruptly parted company with the Covington and Burling lawyers who negotiated his guilty plea in 2017 and represented him until earlier this month.

“No comments,” Powell replied as she navigated a sea of backpedaling videographers before climbing into a cab with her client and other lawyers.