Flynn argues against prison time in Russia investigation

In this July 10, 2018, file photo, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves a federal courthouse in Washington, following a status hearing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
In this July 10, 2018, file photo, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves a federal courthouse in Washington, following a status hearing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn asked a judge Tuesday to spare him prison time, saying he had devoted his career to his country and taken responsibility for an "uncharacteristic error in judgment."

The arguments to the judge echoed those of special counsel Robert Mueller's office, which last week said that Flynn's cooperation — including 19 meetings with investigators — was so extensive that he was entitled to avoid prison when he is sentenced next week.

"Having made a serious error in judgment, for which he has shown true contrition, he recognized it was consistent with the values by which he has led his life simply to provide the facts to those charged with enforcing our laws," his lawyers wrote in requesting a sentence of probation and community service. "On the day he entered his guilty plea, he said he was 'working to set things right.' He has done so."

Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States, will become the first White House official punished in the special counsel's ongoing probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. His sentencing has the makings of a bookend moment for the investigation given that Flynn — a visible presence on the campaign trail, in high-level transition talks and in the chaotic early days of the administration — was an early, and pivotal, part of the case.

His December 2016 phone calls discussing Obama administration sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak triggered intelligence community alarms and led weeks later to his ouster from the White House after administration officials maintained that he had lied to them about the communications.

It also prompted a Jan. 24, 2017, FBI interview at which Mueller says Flynn denied having discouraged Kislyak from an aggressive response to the sanctions, which had been imposed on the Kremlin for election interference that U.S. officials have said was aimed at helping Trump win office.

Tuesday's defense filing did not significantly add to the public understanding of the investigation's status, focusing instead on the retired Army lieutenant general's three decades in the military, including five years in combat. It cited his numerous U.S. Army citations and included 50 letters of support from his family, friends and dozens of military officers and enlisted personnel who served with Flynn. And it described Flynn as a dedicated and fearless officer, noting that while deployed in Grenada, he once dove off a 40-foot cliff and saved two servicemen who had been swept out to sea.

The filing came hours after lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said they were still deciding whether to dispute allegations that he lied to investigators and breached a plea agreement. A judge gave Manafort until Jan. 7 to respond to prosecutors' claims that he misled them about his interactions with an associate who they say has ties to Russian intelligence and with Trump administration officials.

The defendants, their fortunes sliding in opposite directions, represent starkly different paths in Mueller's investigation — a model cooperator on one end and, prosecutors say, a dishonest and resistant witness on the other. Even as prosecutors recommend no prison time for Flynn, they've left open the possibility they may seek additional charges against Manafort, who is already facing years in prison.

Given both men's extensive conversations with prosecutors, and their involvement in key episodes under scrutiny, the pair could pose a threat to the president, who in addition to Mueller's investigation is entangled in a separate probe by prosecutors in New York into hush-money payments paid during the campaign to two women who say they had affairs with Trump.

Since his guilty plea a year ago, Flynn has stayed largely out of the public eye and refrained from discussing the Russia investigation despite encouragement from his supporters to take an aggressive stance.

Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in Washington in September and faces sentencing in a separate case in Virginia, where he was convicted of eight felony counts related to his efforts to hide millions of dollars he earned from Ukrainian political consulting from the IRS.

 

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