Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has a new attorney: former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, one of the earliest and fiercest critics of the Justice Department and the FBI’s investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.
The move appears to signal a shift in posture, if not in strategy: Powell, a former Justice Department attorney who has written extensively about overzealous prosecutors, has claimed that Flynn was spied on as part of a “set-up” by the FBI, and that his entire case should be “dismissed,” taking a far more aggressive public stance than Flynn’s previous lawyers, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony, ever did.
Flynn, who fired Kelner and Anthony last week, awaits sentencing for lying to the FBI about his conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition period. The current federal court docket still doesn’t list a lawyer for Flynn.
Powell said in October that Flynn should withdraw his guilty plea. But she indicated in an email to POLITICO on Wednesday that Flynn’s legal strategy hadn’t changed. “He will continue to cooperate with the government as he has done from the beginning,” she wrote.
Flynn’s old legal team tried to argue in December that the retired lieutenant general was entrapped by the FBI, and it quickly backfired. They claimed at the time that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn in January 2017 about his conversations with Kislyak had tricked him by lulling him into a false sense of security and failing to insist that he have a lawyer present for the interview.
Judge Emmet Sullivan, however, was not sympathetic. “How is raising these points consistent with accepting responsibility?” he asked Flynn and his lawyers as they stood before him. He then lambasted Flynn for lying to federal agents on White House grounds while serving as the president’s national security adviser in January 2017, and for lying about his lobbying work for the Turkish government. “Arguably, you sold out your country,” Sullivan said.
Powell, meanwhile, has made a cottage industry out of attacking Mueller and his team. She has a website called “creepsonamission.com” that sells T-shirts and books attacking former FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the Russia probe and Flynn’s case specifically. And she’s called Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann “the poster boy for prosecutorial misconduct.”
In December, Sullivan gave Flynn the opportunity to postpone his sentencing hearing to continue his cooperation with the government in a probe of illegal lobbying for the Turkish government that is being conducted out of the Eastern District of Virginia. A joint status report on Flynn’s case from federal prosecutors and his defense team is due Friday.