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Flynn Heads to Sentencing Hearing      12/18 06:24

   Michael Flynn will likely walk out of a courtroom a free man due to his 
extensive cooperation with federal prosecutors, but the run-up to his 
sentencing hearing Tuesday has exposed raw tensions over an FBI interview in 
which he lied about his Russian contacts.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Flynn will likely walk out of a courtroom a free 
man due to his extensive cooperation with federal prosecutors, but the run-up 
to his sentencing hearing Tuesday has exposed raw tensions over an FBI 
interview in which he lied about his Russian contacts.

   The former national security adviser's lawyers have suggested that 
investigators discouraged him from having an attorney present during the 
January 2017 interview and never informed him it was a crime to lie. 
Prosecutors shot back, "He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to 
federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth."

   On Monday evening, the dispute--- and a judge's intervention--- led 
prosecutors to publicly file a redacted copy of the notes from Flynn's FBI 
interview that largely bolster the case, showing he told agents things he later 
said were false.

   Still, the mere insinuation of underhanded tactics has been startling given 
the seemingly productive relationship between the two sides, and it was 
especially striking since prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller's 
office have praised Flynn's cooperation and recommended against prison time. 
The defense arguments spurred speculation that Flynn may be trying to get 
sympathy from President Donald Trump or may be playing to a judge known for a 
zero-tolerance view of government misconduct.

   "It's an attempt, I think, to perhaps characterize Flynn as a victim or 
perhaps to make him look sympathetic in the eyes of a judge --- and, at the 
same time, to portray the special counsel in a negative light," said former 
federal prosecutor Jimmy Gurule, a University of Notre Dame law school 
professor.

   Until the dueling memos were filed last week, Flynn had cooperated 
extensively and largely eschewed the aggressive tactics of others involved in 
the Mueller probe.

   Prosecutors, for instance, have accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul 
Manafort of lying to them even after he agreed to cooperate. Another potential 
target, Jerome Corsi, leaked draft court documents and accused Mueller's team 
of bullying him. And George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser recently 
released from a two-week prison sentence, has lambasted the investigation and 
publicly claimed that he was set up.

   But then came Flynn's sentencing memo.

   Although Flynn and his attorneys stopped short of any direct accusations of 
wrongdoing, but they suggested the FBI, which approached Flynn at the White 
House just days after Trump's inauguration, played to his desire to keep the 
encounter quiet and as a result kept him from involving a lawyer.

   They also insinuated that Flynn deserves credit for not publicly seizing on 
the fact that FBI officials involved in the investigation later came under 
scrutiny themselves. Former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who contacted Flynn 
to arrange the interview, was fired this year for what the Justice Department 
said was a lack of candor over a news media leak. Peter Strzok, one of the two 
agents who interviewed Flynn, was removed from Mueller's team and later fired 
for trading anti-Trump texts with another FBI official.

   Mueller's team has sharply pushed back at any suggestion that Flynn was 
duped, with prosecutors responding that as a high-ranking military officer 
steeped in national security issues Flynn "knows he should not lie to federal 
agents."

   Trump has made no secret that he sees Mueller's investigation as a "witch 
hunt" and has continued to lash out at prosecutors he sees as biased against 
him and those who help them. He's shown continued sympathy for Flynn, though, 
calling him a "great person" and asserting erroneously last week that the FBI 
said he didn't lie.

   Flynn has not tried to retract his guilty plea, and there's every indication 
the sentencing will proceed as scheduled.

   Arun Rao, a former Justice Department prosecutor in Maryland, said the 
defense memo is striking because it's "inconsistent" with Flynn's cooperative 
stance so far.

   "You also wonder in this very unusual situation," he said, "whether it is a 
play for a pardon."

   It's also possible that at least some of the defense arguments may resonate 
with U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who was the judge in the Justice 
Department's botched prosecution of now-deceased Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of 
Alaska. He dismissed the case after prosecutors admitted that they withheld 
exculpatory evidence, prompting the judge to say that in nearly 25 years on the 
bench, "I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct 
that I've seen in this case."

   In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal last year, Sullivan said the 
case inspired him to explicitly remind prosecutors in every criminal case 
before him of their obligation to provide defendants with favorable evidence. 
He says he has encouraged colleagues to do the same.

   In Flynn's case, he directed prosecutors to produce FBI records at the 
center of his case, including portions of the notes from his Jan. 24, 2017, FBI 
interview.

   The notes, publicly filed Monday evening, show that FBI agents interviewed 
Flynn about his contacts with Russia, including his past trips to the country 
and his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

   The notes show Flynn told agents he didn't ask Kislyak not to escalate 
Russia's response to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in response 
to election interference. But Flynn admitted in court papers last year that he 
did.

   The notes also show Flynn told agents he didn't ask Kislyak to see if Russia 
would vote a certain way on a United Nations resolution involving Israeli 
settlements. But in court papers last year he admitted that he did ask Kislyak 
to see if Russia would vote against or delay the resolution. Court papers show 
Flynn made that request at the direction of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

   It's unclear what impact, if any, the notes will have on Sullivan's 
sentencing decision.


(KA)

 
 
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