Flynn lawyer tells judge she asked Trump not to pardon his national security adviser
After release of bombshell documents, defense lawyer Sidney Powell makes last pitch to dismiss lying charge against her client.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
A lawyer for Michael Flynn on Tuesday told a federal judge that in her effort to have her client's case vacated she's spoken in person about the case to President Trump and asked him not to pardon Flynn.
Powell said she spoke with Trump and White House lawyer Jenna Ellis recently about the Justice Department's request to dismiss the case.
"I provided the White House with an update on the overall status of the litigation," Powell said in a federal court in Washington, D.C. "I never discussed this case with the president until recently, when I asked him not to issue a pardon."
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan concluded the five-hour hearing without making a ruling on the department's motion to dismiss.
Powell did not say why she asked Trump not to issue a pardon and said she made no other requests to the president.
The president has long said that the federal government overstepped its authority in an attempt to prove that Flynn, as a member the 2016 presidential campaign and transition team, colluded with Russia.
Flynn, who became Trump's national security adviser, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about talking to a Russian diplomat during that period but changed his plea after Powell became his attorney.
Armed with bombshell documents suggesting FBI misconduct, Powell entered the court Tuesday determined to persuade a skeptical judge to vacate the former national security adviser's guilty plea for lying and dismiss the charge.
Powell was joined by Justice Department prosecutors in the effort to dismiss the case, brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team.
Sullivan has solicited his own adversarial advice, ordering a report from a former federal judge in New York that recommended against dismissal on the grounds that DOJ's decision to support dropping the charges was forced by Trump's badgering.
"In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty — twice, before two different judges — and whose guilt is obvious," the retired U.S. District Judge John Gleeson wrote recently. "The government's attempt to dress up a politically motivated dismissal that smacks of impropriety as a 'policy judgment,' should be rejected."
But Powell is armed with several new bombshell documents released by DOJ in the last week, including one showing the lead FBI agent in the Flynn case, William Barnett, declared there was never evidence of wrongdoing by the retired general or Trump and the Russia probe was kept open by Mueller simply because his team had a "get Trump" goal.
Barnett's claims came in the form of an interview with DOJ officials in which he revealed FBI agents recommended closing the Flynn case both in November 2016 and again in January 2017 because there was no evidence of wrongdoing or intelligence threats, but their bosses in FBI management overruled them and decided to pursue the interview where Flynn was accused of lying.
One of those supervisors, former Assistant Director William Priestap, kept notes questioning the decision to pursue the Flynn interview. Specifically, his notes questioned whether the FBI's motive was to find the truth in the Russia case or "to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired."
Barnett's testimony suggested there was no evidentiary basis for the interview or the pursuit of Flynn. "Barnett believed the prosecution of Flynn by SCO [special counsel's office] was used as a means to 'get TRUMP,'" according to the recently released interview report.
In addition, the FBI has released text messages showing some of the intelligence analysts who worked the Flynn case were so concerned the FBI was engaging in misconduct that they bought liability insurance fearing they could be sued after their bosses continued to keep the investigation open based on "conspiracy theories."
"We all went and purchased professional liability insurance," one analyst texted on Jan. 10, 2017, just 10 days before Trump took office.
The extraordinary evidence showing the FBI believed there was no reason to prosecute Flynn was belatedly produced years after he had pleaded guilty, and it is likely to be seized upon both by Powell and the federal prosecutors supporting her request for dismissal.
"There was no case against General Flynn," Powell and federal prosecutors wrote in the new joint motion filed last week. "There was no crime. The FBI and the prosecutors knew that. This American hero and his entire family have suffered for four years from public abuse, slander, libel, and all means of defamation at the hands of the very government he pledged his life to defend."
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