U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he is considering a full pardon for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about dealings with Russia’s ambassador before Mr. Trump took office.
Mr. Flynn attempted to withdraw the guilty plea in January, saying federal prosecutors had acted in “bad faith” and broke their end of the bargain when they sought prison time for him.
“I am strongly considering a Full Pardon!” Mr. Trump tweeted. The President also cited an unspecified report that the Justice Department had lost records related to Mr. Flynn’s case. In response, Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, tweeted, “Thank you, Mr. President” and said “the persecution” of his client “is an egregious injustice.”
Prosecutors had initially said Mr. Flynn was entitled to avoid prison time because of his extensive co-operation, but the relationship with the retired Army lieutenant-general grew increasingly contentious after he hired a new set of lawyers.
Mr. Flynn is one of six Trump aides and associates charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
He pleaded guilty in December, 2017, to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period and provided extensive co-operation to Mr. Mueller’s team of investigators.
His attorneys raised repeated misconduct allegations against the government – which a judge has since rejected – and prosecutors have responded by calling into question whether Mr. Flynn truly accepts guilt.
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered Mr. Flynn’s sentencing hearing to be cancelled “until further order of the court.” He gave both Mr. Flynn and the Justice Department more time to submit filings on Mr. Flynn’s request to withdraw his guilty plea, including claims he received ineffective legal assistance from his former lawyers.
Following Mr. Flynn’s attempt to withdraw his plea, the Justice Department abruptly offered a more lenient sentencing recommendation.
The latest sentencing filing still seeks a sentence of up six months, but unlike before, prosecutors explicitly state that probation would be a “reasonable” punishment and that they would not oppose it.
Mr. Trump has not been shy about using his clemency powers in high-profile cases.
Last month Mr. Trump commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and pardoned former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik. Among the others getting a break from the President were financier Michael Milken and Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner.
Mr. Trump has faced criticism for weighing in on the cases of former aides. When he confirmed his most recent moves in February, he said he had yet to think about pardoning long-time confidant Roger Stone, who awaited sentencing at the time, or granting clemency to Mr. Flynn or former campaign chairman Paul Manafort,
But he made clear he was sympathetic to their plight. “Somebody has to stick up for the people,”Mr. Trump said.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.