WASHINGTON (CN) – In a reversal triggered by Michael Flynn’s shocking effort to slip out from under a guilty plea, federal prosecutors flipped on their recommendation of probation for the former Trump national security adviser and now propose up to six months in prison.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan shot down Flynn’s claim of government misconduct – which the Justice Department called an “extraordinary reversal” on his guilty plea after more than 100 hours of cooperation – concluding the defendant failed to prove a single violation by the FBI.
Flynn is one of five ex-Trump aides to plead guilty during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into interference in the 2016 election.
He will appear in Washington federal court on Jan. 28 to be sentenced for lying to the FBI about his communications in late 2016 with the former Russia ambassador about relieving U.S. sanctions against Russia levied by the Obama administration for meddling in the presidential election.
In a 33-page memo filed Tuesday, the Justice Department accuses Flynn of monetizing his power and influence at the highest levels of the U.S government.
“The defendant’s conduct was more than just a series of lies; it was an abuse of trust. During the defendant’s pattern of criminal conduct, he was the national security advisor to the president of the United States, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general,” the memo states.
The government cites Flynn’s atypical behavior as a cooperating witness, including contradicting sworn grand jury testimony just ahead of testifying against his former business partner Bijan Rafiekian, as the reason for now recommending incarceration.
Federal prosecutors opted just weeks out from the Rafiekian criminal trial not to call Flynn as a star witness after he altered his account of key events.
“Given the serious nature of the defendant’s offense, his apparent failure to accept responsibility, his failure to complete his cooperation in – and his affirmative efforts to undermine – the prosecution of Bijan Rafiekian, and the need to promote respect for the law and adequately deter such criminal conduct, the government recommends that the court sentence the defendant within the applicable guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration,” the memo states.
Laying out the series of lies Flynn told the FBI, the government said any effort to undermine sanctions on Russia could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“It was material to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation to know the full extent of the defendant’s communications with the Russian Ambassador, and why he lied to the FBI about those communications,” the memo states.
Claiming the FBI conducted an “ambush interview” to trap him into making false statements, Flynn said last October that he was honest with federal agents to the best of his recollection at the time.
“Far from accepting the consequences of his unlawful actions, he has sought to blame almost every other person and entity involved in his case, including his former counsel. Most blatantly, the defendant now professes his innocence,” the DOJ memo states.
The government is requesting Judge Sullivan, since rejecting Flynn’s claims, inquire whether “he maintains those apparent statements of innocence or whether he disavows them and fully accepts responsibility for his criminal conduct.”
Federal prosecutors slammed Flynn for reversing his guilty plea made under oath before two federal judges. The defendant meanwhile argued the FBI had engaged in “conduct so shocking to the conscience and so inimical to our system of justice” that his charge of lying to the FBI should be dropped.
The Justice Department initially proposed probation for Flynn in December 2018 before the Rafiekian case went to trial. In the memo filed Tuesday, the government recalled that at the time federal prosecutors recommended Judge Sullivan credit Flynn for providing substantial assistance and for accepting responsibility.
“The government now withdraws both requests,” prosecutors wrote.
The government also stated that before pleading guilty, Flynn was liable to be charged as a co-defendant with Rafiekian for false statements made to the Justice Department when registering as a foreign agent for Turkey.
“During the entirety of the defendant’s time as the national security advisor and a senior advisor to the presidential transition team, the public and our government did not know about his relationship with the government of Turkey,” the memo states.
Flynn is scheduled to respond to the government’s recommendation on Jan. 22, six days ahead of appearing for sentencing before Sullivan, a Bill Clinton appointee. The judge back in 2018 openly expressed disdain for Flynn, telling the former Trump aide, “Arguably you sold your country out.”
The Justice Department on Tuesday laid down a similar rebuke: “When the FBI and DOJ needed information that only the defendant could provide, because of that power and influence, he denied them that information. And so an official tasked with protecting our national security, instead compromised it.”