If former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is thinking about backing away from his plea deal, he gave no signs as such Monday at a brief court hearing — the first since he shook up his legal team.
In DC federal court, Flynn’s new lawyer Sidney Powell — whose previous criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller prompted speculation that her hiring meant a change of strategy in Flynn’s case — said that the plan was still for Flynn to testify at an upcoming trial for one of his business associates.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan kicked off the 20-minute hearing by noting, for the sake of transparency, that Powell had written about him at length in a 2014 book called “Licensed To Lie.” Her portrayal of Sullivan was “complimentary,” the judge noted, but after consulting with a colleague he decided there was no need for him to recuse from the case.
“I am embarrassed to say I did not read the entire book,” Sullivan said, getting laughter in the courtroom. “I did read the chapters about me.”
Once he got that out of the way, Sullivan turned to the procedural questions he had for Powell about Flynn’s case going forward.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts and was set to be sentenced in December 2018. The sentencing hearing in front of Sullivan, however, went completely off the rails when Sullivan expressed frustration that Flynn’s original team of lawyers had cast doubt on his guilty plea in their sentencing memo and suggested that Flynn may have been entrapped.
In the earlier hearing, Sullivan hinted that Flynn may face prison time, despite prosecutors not recommending any, and that he’d be better off waiting until his cooperation with the government was complete. That cooperation will likely include Flynn’s testimony at the trial next month for his former associate, Bijan Kian, who’s been accused of failing to register his foreign lobbying.
“That cooperation is fully ongoing,” Powell said Monday.
Powell, however, expressed concern about when the next status report in Flynn’s case was due, and suggested that the judge schedule its due date for 90 days from now instead of 60.
She said there was “a lot of information to process” in Flynn’s case, and that for the next month she’d be preparing for his testimony at Kian’s trial.
The judge ultimately scheduled the next status report submission for the end of August.
Powell also told the judge that she may need a security clearance to review the information in Flynn’s case. Brandon Van Grack — a former member of Mueller’s team who is still representing the government in the Flynn case — clarified that none of the roughly 20,000 pages of discovery were classified.
The judge told Powell and the prosecutors to consult with the court’s classified information officer and said he didn’t think he needed to be involved unless the parties requested his intervention.
For her first public appearance representing Flynn, Powell wore a white jacket with “Carpe Diem” embroidered on the lapel.
Overall, the hearing was a low drama affair, especially compared to the fireworks of the December hearing where Flynn was supposed to be sentenced. Some legal experts speculated that Flynn fired his old team to wipe the slate clean from the debacle. But Powell’s well-known record for bashing Mueller’s tactics and for even suggesting that Flynn withdraw from his plea also fueled predictions that Flynn would back out of his deal and seek a pardon from President Trump instead.
Even before Powell’s hiring, far right conspiracy theories surrounded Flynn’s case, particularly after the judge issued an order emphasizing the government’s discovery obligations.
On Monday, Sullivan alluded to the theories and noted he issues the order in all of his cases.
“There’s been some theories” that maybe the court knows something [the public doesn’t], Sullivan said. “Believe me, I don’t.”