By MICHELLE R. SMITH and JENNIFER McDERMOTT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is campaigning for Republican candidates around the country as he awaits sentencing for lying to the FBI, an unusual and risky course that has set off speculation and head-scratching over what he hopes to accomplish.
Flynn, the retired general who led the GOP convention in 2016 in a “Lock her up!” chant against Hillary Clinton, released a video endorsement last weekend of one of Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s opponents in Montana and said in a radio interview that he wants to do what he can for others running for office.
In March, Flynn appeared in California with Republican Omar Navarro in his primary bid for the seat held by Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters.
Many defense attorneys wouldn’t advise a client convicted of a felony to make speeches and endorsements before going in front of a judge for sentencing.
“Judges like defendants to show a little remorse and be a little penitent about things, so it’s risky,” said Robert S. Bennett, Bill Clinton’s personal lawyer during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Flynn’s lawyer, Rob Kelner, did not return a message seeking comment.
Some of those close to Flynn, who has a home in Middletown, Rhode Island, say he is simply going about his life, staying involved in politics, as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump camp grinds on.
Justin Dillon, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Washington who specializes in white-collar crime, theorized that Flynn may be angling for a pardon from President Donald Trump.
“And making his case in public could be one way to help accomplish that,” Dillon said. “I think President Trump has shown that he is willing to pardon people that he believes were wrongly treated.”
But Bennett cast doubt on the angling-for-a-pardon theory. Flynn is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
The White House has denied that any pardons have been discussed in connection with the Russia investigation. But Trump recently made a supportive comment about Flynn, tweeting on April 20 that he questioned why Flynn’s life “can be totally destroyed” while fired FBI Director James Comey can profit from a new book.
Flynn, 59, served as Trump’s national security adviser for 24 days. He pleaded guilty in December to making false statements about reaching out to the Russians on behalf of President-elect Trump.
His sentencing has been put on hold as he cooperates. He faces up to six months behind bars.
In endorsing Republican Troy Downing in Montana, Flynn said it was important to beat Tester in November. Trump has attacked Tester over his role in the failed nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson for Veterans Affairs secretary.
Tester “should have just kept his mouth shut. Instead he didn’t, and it ruined the career of a great military officer,” Flynn said in the video.
Asked by a Montana radio station if he had anything he wanted to say to supporters who believe he was unfairly targeted, Flynn declined and said he was there to talk about Downing.
Downing, who faces a primary in June, said during a candidate forum that he was flattered when Flynn offered his help.
“I think that he’s been a casualty in what’s going on in D.C., and we need to stand up for our own and we need to fight back,” Downing said. “I’ve seen that across the state, people excited to meet this American patriot.”
During Flynn’s appearance in California, he told the crowd he wasn’t there “to complain about who has done me wrong or how unfair I’ve been treated or how unfair the entire process has been.”
In mid-April, his travels took him to New York City, where he spoke at a think tank.
Also last month, two of Flynn’s siblings wrote an open letter in which they said they believe Flynn was the subject of a “political assassination” by the intelligence community that resulted in his being “diabolically spied on, ambushed and framed.”
Friends said Flynn is just continuing the kind of political activity he engaged in during the Trump campaign.
“One of the biggest things about the Mueller investigation and having these charges held over his head is he was not allowed to move on,” said Thomas A. Heaney Jr., a retired Army colonel who has been close with Flynn since childhood in Rhode Island. “That was part of his motivation for making the deal he made in the first place.”
Associated Press writer Matt Volz in Helena, Montana, contributed to this report.