Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday urged a federal judge to reject an attempt by President Donald Trump‘s former national security advisor Michael Flynn “to minimize the seriousness” of his crime days before his sentencing date.
The circumstances of Flynn’s interview with the FBI that led to his guilty plea do not mitigate the seriousness of Flynn’s crime, the special counsel said in a court filing.
“Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI,” the special counsel added.
That filing came a day after the judge presiding over Flynn’s case ordered the special counsel to submit documents related to Flynn’s interview with the FBI.
That order fueled speculation that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was looking for more information about Flynn’s January 2017 interview with the FBI.
In their sentencing memo filed earlier this week, Flynn’s lawyers cited ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who said he told Flynn at the time of that interview that “the quickest way to get this done was” for him to speak with agents by himself without a lawyer present.
Flynn’s team also said the agents didn’t provide him “with a warning of the penalties” for lying to the FBI.
The new details about Flynn’s interview with investigators incensed some of his supporters, who argue that the FBI engaged in tactics akin to “entrapment.” Trump weighed in, too, telling reporters Thursday that “it’s a great thing that the judge is looking into that situation” by ordering Mueller’s team to turn over more documents about the interview.
Other legal experts dispute that conclusion, however. David Weinstein, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said that while it’s possible that some “trickery” by the FBI may have been at play, the agents were under no requirement to read Flynn his rights before questioning him.
“My takeaway: He was sitting down with FBI agents. He should be prepared to tell the truth,” Weinstein said.
The retired lieutenant general’s sentencing hearing is set for next Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET in Washington, D.C. federal court.
In prior sentencing documents, Flynn’s lawyers and the special counsel had both recommended a light sentence for the highly decorated U.S. Army veteran.
On Tuesday, Flynn’s legal team asked Sullivan to sentence the 60-year-old Flynn to one year of minimally supervised probation and 200 hours of community service. That request came a week after the special counsel recommended that Flynn receive a sentence “at the low end” of his guideline range of zero to six months in jail.
Flynn has cooperated extensively with the government in 19 interviews with law enforcement officials, which began even before he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The sentencing memo from Flynn’s lawyers also noted that Flynn felt “genuine contrition” for his “uncharacteristic error in judgment” when he made the false statements.
The filing also touched on a litany of Flynn’s military accolades throughout his 33-year tenure in the Army. It recounts an act of heroism from Flynn’s deployment to Grenada in 1983, when he dove from a 40-foot cliff into the ocean to save two servicemen who had been swept out by the current.
Flynn served briefly as Trump’s first national security advisor until February 2017, when he resigned after allegedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S.
Flynn had also lied about his contacts with Kislyak during a interview with FBI agents just four days after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. He pleaded guilty in December of that year to one count of making false statements as part of Mueller’s ongoing probe of Russian election interference and potential coordination between the Kremlin and Trump campaign-related figures.