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Mike Flynn Seizes the Rope to Hang Himself With: Flynn’s Motion to Dismiss Carter Page’s Non-Existent Plea

As I noted yesterday, Mike Flynn’s legal team and the government submitted a bunch of filings yesterday.

I’m collectively titling my posts on them, “Mike Flynn Seizes the Rope to Hang Himself,” which is the advice Rob Kelner gave his then-client in December 2018 when Judge Emmet Sullivan swore him in to reallocute his guilty plea, effectively arguing that if Flynn withdrew his plea, it would lead to worse consequences. Flynn’s current lawyer, Sidney Powell, argues that advice was objectively incompetent. I predict the outcome of the next few weeks will show Kelner had the better judgment.

This post from yesterday covers the government reply to Flynn’s sentencing memo.

This post will focus on Flynn’s motion to dismiss for misconduct, a 27-page motion that Flynn submitted yesterday with neither warning nor pre-approval from Sullivan. Flynn has made much of this argument before (and Sullivan has rejected it) in a filing that argued,

The government works hard to persuade this Court that the scope of its discovery obligation is limited to facts relating to punishment for the crime to which Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty. However, the evidence already produced or in the public record reveals far larger issues are at play: namely, the integrity of our criminal justice system and public confidence in what used to be our premier law enforcement institution. When the Director of the FBI, and a group of his close associates, plot to set up an innocent man and create a crime—while taking affirmative steps to ensnare him by refusing to follow procedures designed to prevent such inadvertent missteps—this amounts to conduct so shocking to the conscience and so inimical to our system of justice that it requires the dismissal of the charges for outrageous government conduct.

[snip]

As new counsel has made clear from her first appearance, Mr. Flynn will ask this Court to dismiss the entire prosecution based on the outrageous and un-American conduct of law enforcement officials and the subsequent failure of the prosecution to disclose this evidence— which it had in its possession all along—either in a timely fashion or at all.

In a footnote in yesterday’s filing, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell explains that, no, the last time she tried this argument, which Sullivan rejected in an unbelievably meticulous 92 page opinion, wasn’t actually her motion to dismiss, this is,

Contrary to a suggestion in this Court’s recent opinion, Mr. Flynn did not previously move to dismiss the case against him. ECF No. 144 at 2. As the docket sheet and this Court’s recital of motions show, this is Mr. Flynn’s only Motion to Dismiss. In Mr. Flynn’s previous filings, he made clear he would ultimately move for dismissal, that the evidence requested in his Brady motion would further support the basis for dismissal, and that the case should be dismissed.

Particularly given that much of this repeats what Powell said in the earlier motion, the claim that this is the real motion to dismiss probably won’t sit well with Judge Sullivan. But Powell has to try again, because (as I’ll show) her motion to dismiss doesn’t actually claim that Flynn is innocent of lying to the FBI about his call with Sergey Kislyak — he says the opposite. So this motion to dismiss appears designed to explain why Flynn should not be held accountable for that lie.

Powell justifies doing so because she claims she found new damning information in the IG Report on Carter Page. (She also complains that she received Flynn’s 302s since the prior motion, but presents not a single piece of evidence from them; as I’ll show in my third post on these filings, she’s probably going to regret raising them.)

Such exculpatory evidence and outrageous misconduct includes that on December 9, 2019, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) issued its 478-page report on the “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation” (“IG Report”).2 The IG Report illustrates the misconduct by the government as further detailed below.

[snip]

Additionally, the IG Report shows that the government long suppressed evidence of shocking malfeasance by the leadership of the FBI and Supervisory Special Agent 1 (“SSA 1”) that was favorable to Mr. Flynn’s defense. For these reasons, and those outlined in prior briefing, Mr. Flynn moves to dismiss this entire prosecution for outrageous government misconduct and in the interest of justice.

In a probably ill-considered move, Powell blames Sullivan for not considering the IG Report in his previous opinion.

Despite the defense, the government, and this Court agreeing to abate the schedule in this case because of the pending and admittedly-relevant IG Report (ECF No. 140 and this Court’s Minute Order of November 27, 2019), this Court denied Mr. Flynn’s Motion to Compel Production of Brady Evidence without allowing for additional briefing in light of that report or considering any of the deliberate government misconduct it disclosed. ECF Nos. 143 and 144. Mr. Flynn now moves to dismiss the indictment for the additional egregious misconduct documented in the IG Report, other recently produced materials, all previously briefed issues, and in the interest of justice.

A week passed between the time the IG Report came out — which has just one small section relating to Flynn — and the date Sullivan issued his opinion. It is Powell’s job to ask him to consider any new information in it, not his job to cull through the report and find out if anything is relevant. She did not do so. Which is one of many reasons why Sullivan would be in his right to just dismiss this as untimely.

As I note in this thread, much of what follows is either a repetition of complaints that Sullivan already rejected or a claim that Mike Flynn, honored General of thirty years, is actually Carter Page, maligned gadfly, because they describe things that did injure Page but did not injure Flynn and are utterly irrelevant to the lies Flynn told on January 24, 2017.

  • Asks that Sullivan rely on a Ninth Circuit opinion on the Bundy family to reconsider Brady violations he already ruled did not happen.
  • Revisits a Jim Comey comment that was briefed before Flynn pled guilty the last time and Powell’s conspiracy theories about a draft 302 that she claims differs from the notes and the released 302s which are all consistent.
  • Invokes Ted Stevens by invoking the Henry Shuelke report, which laid out problems with the Senators prosecution, but which Sullivan has already said is an inapt comparison.
  • Mixes up the 2017 FISA order that shows (in part) that Flynn, personally, presided over FISA abuses with the 2018 FISA order that shows Chris Wray’s FBI committed querying violations that affected thousands (quite possibly in an attempt to find out who leaked details of Flynn’s comments to Sergei Kislyak).
  • Claims that the Carter Page FISA allowed the FBI to illegally obtain the communications of “hundreds of people, including Mr. Flynn,” which is a claim that doesn’t show up in the IG Report (Powell cites to it “generally,” which is her tell in this motion that she’s making shit up); while it’s possible emails from the campaign (possibly group emails on National Security) involving both Page and Flynn were collected, there is zero chance any of them pertain to the lies Flynn told on January 24, 2017. Moreover, there is virtually no chance that Flynn was communicating with Carter Page after April 2017 via encrypted messaging apps — months after both had been ousted from Trump’s circles because of their problematic interactions with Russians — which is what it likely would have taken to have been collected under the applications deemed problematic by FBI.
  • Twice claims that Flynn’s obligation (which he fulfilled) to tell DIA when he went traipsing off to RT Galas in Russia equates to CIA’s designation of Carter Page as an acceptable contact and notes that Sullivan already ruled that wasn’t exculpatory on the charges before him (the government has made it clear Flynn’s DIA briefing was actually inculpatory).
  • Claims SSA1 — whom Powell asserts, probably but not necessarily correctly, is the second Agent who interviewed Flynn — supervised Crossfire Hurricane, but doesn’t note that was only until December 2016, at least four weeks before Flynn lied to FBI agents on January 24, 2017; Powell repeatedly claims, falsely, that SSA1 supervised Crossfire Hurricane during the entire period when Carter Page was under surveillance.
  • Insinuates, with no evidence, that SSA1 knew that Case Agent 1 had excluded comments from George Papadopoulos that the frothy right believes are exculpatory but which the FBI judged correctly at the time were just a cover story.
  • Claims falsely that Lisa Page had a role in opening an investigation into Flynn.
  • Complains that the FISA applications made statements about Stefan Halper that were true but not backed by paperwork in the Woods File, even though (contrary to Flynn’s conspiracy theories) Halper never spoke with Flynn as part of tihs investigation.

Pages and pages into this, Powell admits that actually all of this would matter if she were representing Carter Page, but she claims (with no evidence, and given the scope of the Page warrants, there would be none) that it nevertheless injures her client.

While Mr. Flynn’s case is not even the focus of the IG Report, the Report reveals illegal, wrongful, and improper conduct that affected Mr. Flynn, and is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by United States Attorney John Durham.

Even where the IG Report does describe something that affected Flynn directly — in SSA1’s inclusion in Trump’s first briefing, in part, to see what kinds of questions he was asking — Powell manages to lard it with false claims. On top of misrepresenting how long SSA1 oversaw the investigation into Trump’s flunkies (noted above and exhibited specifically below), Powell suggests that SSA1 snuck into the August 17, 2016 intelligence briefing Flynn attended as Trump’s top national security advisor and had no purpose but to observe her client.

There were two FBI agents who interviewed Mr. Flynn in the White House on January 24, 2017—Agent Peter Strzok and SSA 1. The IG Report confirms both participated in government misconduct. As explained in further detail below, not only was Strzok so biased, calculated, and deceitful he had to be terminated from Mueller’s investigation and then the FBI/DOJ, but it has also now been revealed that SSA 1 was surreptitiously inserted in the mock presidential briefing on August 17, 2016, to collect information and report on Mr. Trump and Mr. Flynn. Moreover, SSA 1 was involved in every aspect of the debacle that is Crossfire Hurricane and significant illegal surveillance resulting from it. Further, SSA 1 bore ultimate responsibility for four falsified applications to the FISA court and oversaw virtually every abuse inherent in Crossfire Hurricane— including suppression of exculpatory evidence. See generally IG Report.

[snip]

Shockingly, as further briefed below, SSA 1 also participated surreptitiously in a presidential briefing with candidate Trump and Mr. Flynn for the express purpose of taking notes, monitoring anything Mr. Flynn said, and in particular, observing and recording anything Mr. Flynn or Mr. Trump said or did that might be of interest to the FBI in its “investigation.” IG Report at 340

[snip]

More specifically, as the Inspector General explained further in his testimony to Congress on December 11, 2019, SSA 1 surreptitiously interviewed and sized-up Mr. Flynn on August 17, 2016, under the “pretext” of being part of what was actually a presidential briefing but reported dishonestly to others as a “defensive briefing.”

[snip]

Strzok and Lisa Page texted about an “insurance policy” on August 15, 2016.20 They opened the FBI “investigation” of Mr. Flynn on August 16, 2016. IG Report at 2. The very next day, SSA 1 snuck into what was represented to candidate Trump and Mr. Flynn as a presidential briefing. IG Report at 340. [my emphasis]

The overwhelming bulk of her complaint about this is that — she claims — SSA1’s participation was secret. Reading this motion, you’d think he was hidden under the couch while the briefing was conducted. His presence, of course, was in no way surreptitious. What was secret was that Flynn was under investigation and SSA1 was overseeing it.

In one of her discussions of the briefing, Powell quotes the part of the IG Report that refutes her suggestions that SSA1 was only in this briefing to observe Flynn.

In August 2016, the supervisor of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, SSA 1, participated on behalf of the FBI in an ODNI strategic intelligence briefing given to candidate Trump and his national security advisors, including Flynn, and in a separate briefing given to candidate Clinton and her national security advisors. The stated purpose of the FBI’s participation in the counterintelligence and security portion of the briefing was to provide the recipients ‘a baseline on the presence and threat posed by foreign intelligence services to the National Security of the U.S.’ However, we found the FBI also had an investigative purpose when it specifically selected SSA 1, a supervisor for the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, to provide the FBI briefings. SSA 1 was selected, in part, because Flynn, who would be attending the briefing with candidate Trump, was a subject in one of the ongoing investigations related to Crossfire Hurricane. SSA 1 told us that the briefing provided him ‘the opportunity to gain assessment and possibly some level of familiarity with [Flynn]. So, should we get to the point where we need to do a subject interview…I would have that to fall back on.’

As the passage she quotes makes clear, that was just part of the reason why he was selected. She doesn’t mention that, as a senior counterintelligence agent, SSA1 was appropriate to give the briefing in any case, and in fact did give the equivalent first briefing to Hillary, as well.

In one place, however, Powell totally misrepresents what the purpose of this briefing was claiming that it was the defensive briefing about specific threats to the candidate.

While SSA 1’s stated purpose of the presidential briefing on August 17, 2016, was “to provide the recipients ‘a baseline on the presence and threat posed by foreign intelligence services to the National Security of the U.S,’” IG Report at xviii (Executive Summary), the IG Report confirmed that, in actuality, the Trump campaign was never given any defensive briefing about the alleged national security threats. IG Report at 55. Thus, SSA 1’s participation in that presidential briefing was a calculated subterfuge to record and report for “investigative purposes” anything Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump said in that meeting. IG Report at 408. The agent was there only because Mr. Flynn was there. IG Report at 340. Ironically, Mr. Flynn arranged this meeting with ODNI James Clapper for the benefit of candidate Trump.

As the IG Report makes clear, these are different things. The IG Report even provides several different explanations for why the FBI did not give Trump a defensive briefing that Russia was trying to influence his campaign, but which Powell doesn’t include. Andrew McCabe’s explanation was particularly prescient.

[T]he FBI did not brief people who “could potentially be the subjects that you are investigating or looking for.” McCabe told us that in a sensitive counterintelligence matter, it was essential to have a better understanding of what was occurring before taking an overt step such as providing a defensive briefing.

You couldn’t brief Trump on a potential Russian threat with Flynn present because Flynn was considered — because of his past close ties to the GRU and his paid appearances with Russian entities, including one where he met Putin — one of the most likely people for Russia to have alerted about the email hack-and-dump plan. And, as I noted, there was a bunch of language about counterintelligence issues in the government’s original sentencing memo specifically pertaining to Flynn that should concern him if he weren’t so busy producing fodder for the frothy right. So, in fact, the FBI was right to worry (and I suspect we may hear more about this).

Moreover, as this entire effort to blow up the plea deal emphasizes, Flynn turned out to be an egregious counterintelligence risk for other reasons, as well: the secret deal he was arranging with Turkey even as this briefing occurred, which he explained, at length, under oath, to the grand jury. That is, this proceeding makes it clear that the FBI was right not to trust Mike Flynn, because, days before this briefing, his firm had committed, in secret to working on a frenemy government’s payroll.

This is tangential to Powell’s trumped up complaints about the only thing the IG Report says that directly affected her client. But — as with so much of this stunt — my suspicion is that if she presses this issue it will backfire in spectacular fashion.

In any case, the main takeaway from this motion to dismiss the plea is that virtually all the new stuff that Judge Sullivan hasn’t already ruled was irrelevant in meticulous fashion doesn’t affect Mike Flynn, it affects Carter Page. And the stuff that does affect Flynn directly is probably not something he wants to emphasize before Sullivan weighs the gravity of his lies.

More importantly, for the motion to withdraw his plea, nothing here undercuts the fact that Mike Flynn pled guilty to his lies about Russia.

Mike Flynn Seizes the Rope to Hang Himself With: Probation for Petraeus

The government and Mike Flynn submitted several motions today:

Eventually, I’ll hit them all in this post. But for now, I’m going to address just the government reply to Flynn’s sentencing memo, because I read it very very differently than virtually everyone who has read it.

A number of people are shocked by what seems to be the government’s deference to Mike Flynn in the memo, particularly their recommendation for a guidelines sentence — which might include probation. It’s true, the memo mentions probation over and over.

As set forth below, the government maintains that a sentence within the Guidelines range – to include a sentence of probation – would be appropriate and warranted in this case.

[snip]

Here, the applicable Guidelines range already encompasses a potential penalty of probation and there is no lower possible penalty for the offense of conviction.

[snip]

Based on all of the relevant facts and for the foregoing reasons, the government submits that a sentence within the Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration is appropriate and warranted in this case, agrees with the defendant that a sentence of probation is a reasonable sentence and does not oppose the imposition of a sentence of probation.

The memo then goes on to nod to the issues Flynn raised. It acknowledges, then rebuts, Flynn’s complaints about what he claims is the government asking him to lie about FARA. But, the government notes, regardless of who is right, it wouldn’t change the guidelines sentence.

Importantly, regardless of whether or not the Court considers the defendant’s FARA false statements in fashioning its sentence, the applicable Guidelines range is still 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

It notes Flynn’s apparent backtracking on acknowledgement of responsibility. But, the government notes, regardless of who is right, it wouldn’t change the guidelines sentence.

But again, this makes no difference to the applicable Guidelines range – a two-level reduction in his base offense level would still result in a range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

Thus far, the government is doing precisely what it did in its own sentencing memo, emphasize that the government position has not changed. It asked for a guidelines sentence in December 2018, it asked for a guidelines sentence earlier this month, and it is recommending a guidelines sentence here. Anything outside those guidelines is Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision.

Where the memo is absolutely fucking genius, though, is where it addresses Flynn’s emphasis that because he was a General forever, he should get probation. Every memo Flynn has submitted of late has basically argued that because he gave his life to the country, he should get special treatment.

As the government notes, in the very last words of their memo, that has happened in the past.

In terms of comparative sentences in cases involving arguably similarly-situated defendants, we note that there are several cases involving high-ranking government officials where probationary sentences were imposed. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stole classified information from the National Archives, destroyed that information, and then lied to the government about his conduct. At the government’s recommendation, based in part on Berger’s cooperation with the government, he received a probationary sentence. See Gov’t Sent’g Mem. at 9, United States v. Berger, No. 05-mj-00175 (D.D.C. Sept 6. 2005) (Doc. 13); see also Factual Basis for Plea (D.D.C. Apr. 1, 2005) (Doc. 6). Likewise, after General David Petraeus pleaded guilty to the unauthorized retention and removal of classified documents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1924, he received a probationary sentence. United States v. Petraeus, No. 15-cr-47 (W.D.N.C.). Here, the Court should consider these and other arguably analogous cases, along with all of the other relevant facts in this case, in fashioning a sentence that is “sufficient but not greater than necessary” to satisfy the statutory sentencing requirements under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3553(a).

Boy oh boy do these prosecutors look reasonable, huh, noting that powerful people sometimes get probation for things the little people go to prison for.

Except we know how Emmet Sullivan feels about Generals who think they should get special treatment because they’re high-ranking Generals, because he said so explicitly when Rob Kelner raised David Petraeus back in December 2018.

MR. KELNER: In addition, I would note there have been other high profile cases, one involving a four-star general, General Petraeus.

THE COURT: I don’t agree with that plea agreement, but don’t —

[snip]

THE COURT: All right. Let me just say this. I probably shouldn’t. Having said that, I probably shouldn’t. I don’t agree with the Petraeus sentence. I’m sorry. I don’t see how a four-star general gives classified information to someone not authorized to receive it and then is allowed to plead to a misdemeanor, but I don’t know anything about it. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. I don’t know. It’s none of my business, but it’s just my opinion.

And that has no impact — I would not take that into consideration in whatever sentence I impose here. Just based upon what I know about that case, I just disagreed with it. That’s all.

Yes, the prosecutors look totally docile in this memo. They’re disputing Flynn’s point, but ultimately they’re recommending the same thing they’ve always recommended, a guidelines sentence. They’re doing that because it inoculates them against any claim that their decision not to have Flynn testify affected his sentence, and they’re doing so to make clear that what Flynn is doing, in requesting to blow everything up, he’s doing even though the same guidelines sentence remains on the table. What comes next will be entirely his own fault.

And, yes, they mention probation, just like Flynn did. But in doing so, they almost certainly did so in a way that only exacerbates Sullivan’s innate disgust with powerful people who ask for special treatment.

Mueller’s 302s: The Apparent Referral of Rick Gerson’s 302s May Be as Interesting as Kushner’s

Last week, CNN explained why, even though DOJ had promised to release a certain set of FBI interview reports (302s) in the CNN/BuzzFeed FOIA for the underlying materials from the Mueller Report, Jared Kushner’s April 2018 interview report has not yet been released: An intelligence agency is reviewing the memo.

The Justice Department did not hand over the FBI’s summary of Jared Kushner’s interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller last week — despite a judge’s order to do so — because “a member of the intelligence community” needs to ensure the material has been properly redacted, a department attorney said Wednesday.

DOJ lawyer Courtney Enlow informed CNN as part of an ongoing lawsuit that Kushner’s memo, also known as a “302, will be released with the appropriate redactions” after the intelligence agency has finished its review.

Earlier this month, DOJ gave the plaintiffs in this FOIA suit a table that may provide useful background to it. Vast swaths of virtually all of these 302s have been withheld under a b5 exemption, which is broadly known as the deliberative privilege exemption. This table (“b5 table”) purports to explain which 302s have been withheld under which form of b5 exemption:

  • AWP: Attorney Work Product, basically a specious claim that because attorneys were present at an interview, the report produced by non-attorney FBI agents gets covered as a result
  • DPP: Deliberative Process Privilege, which is supposed to mean that the redacted material involves government officials trying to decide what to do about a policy or, in this case, prosecutorial decisions
  • PCP: Presidential Communications Privilege, meaning the redacted material includes discussions directly involving the President

The litigation over these b5 Exemptions was always going to be heated, given that DOJ is using them to hide details of what the President and his flunkies did in 2016. All the more so now that DOJ has adopted a broader invocation of b5 exemptions than they did earlier in this lawsuit, when they were limited to just discussions of law and charging decisions.

Still, the b5 table is useful in other ways.

Mary McCord interview purportedly includes Presidential Communications

For example, it shows that the government redacted parts of Acting NSD Director Mary McCord‘s interview report, which focused closely on her interactions with the White House Counsel about Mike Flynn’s lies to the FBI, as a Presidential Communication.

This claim  is probably fairly sketchy. She is not known, herself, to have spoken directly to Trump. And while much of her interview was withheld under b1 and b3 (at least partly on classification grounds pertaining to the FISA on which Flynn was captured, but also grand jury information with respect to the investigation into Mike Flynn) and b7E (law enforcement methods), the parts that were withheld under b5 appear to be her speaking to Don McGahn, including bringing information to him, rather than the reverse.

Crazier still, we’ve all been pretending that Flynn lied about his calls with Sergey Kislyak of his own accord; the Mueller Report remained pointedly non-committal on whether Flynn undercut Obama’s sanctions on Trump’s orders or not. Protecting these conversations as a Presidential Communication seems tacit admission that Don McGahn’s interactions with McCord were significantly about Trump, not Flynn.

Chris Ruddy’s interview unsurprisingly includes Presidential Communications

It is thoroughly unsurprising that DOJ is withholding parts of Chris Ruddy’s interview as Presidential Communications. After all, during the period about which the unredacted parts of the interview show he was interviewed (summer 2017), Ruddy served as Trump’s rational brain, so it would be unsurprising if Ruddy told Mueller’s team certain things he said to Trump.

Though even there, there are passages that seem like may be an improper assertion of Presidential Communications, such as what appears to be a meeting at the White House with Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon — neither of whom is the President — asking for his help to go make a public statement mind-melding him into not firing Mueller.

As the Mueller Report passages sourced to this interview make clear, this is a PR request, not a presidential communication.

On Monday, June 12, 2017, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of the President’s, met at the White House with Priebus and Bannon.547 Ruddy recalled that they told him the President was strongly considering firing the Special Counsel and that he would do so precipitously, without vetting the decision through Administration officials.548 Ruddy asked Priebus if Ruddy could talk publicly about the discussion they had about the Special Counsel, and Priebus said he could.549 Priebus told Ruddy he hoped another blow up like the one that followed the termination of Comey did not happen.550 Later that day, Ruddy stated in a televised interview that the President was “considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel” based on purported conflicts of interest.551 Ruddy later told another news outlet that “Trump is definitely considering” terminating the Special Counsel and “it’s not something that’s being dismissed.”552 Ruddy’s comments led to extensive coverage in the media that the President was considering firing the Special Counsel.553

White House officials were unhappy with that press coverage and Ruddy heard from friends that the President was upset with him.554

Still, the fact that DOJ maintains that some of this interview involves Presidential Communications is interesting because of the point I made in this post: Passages currently redacted for an ongoing criminal proceeding suggest Ruddy’s other communications, possibly with Manafort or his lawyer, are part of an ongoing criminal proceeding.

I’m interested in Ruddys’ 302 because four paragraphs that show a b7ABC redaction, which mostly has been used to hide stuff pertaining to Roger Stone.

I doubt this redaction pertains to Stone, though, at least not exclusively.

As I noted last June when Amy Berman Jackson liberated the Sean Hannity texts with Manafort, she withheld another set of communications (probably showing Kevin Downing reached out to the media, as he had done with Hannity, which is why they were submitted as part of Manafort’s sentencing). She withheld the other texts because of an ongoing proceeding.

At the time, I suggested that the other proceeding might pertain to Chris Ruddy because:

  • Ruddy was a key source for a key Howard Fineman story in the same time frame as Kevin Downing had reached out to Hannity
  • Prosecutors probably obtained all of Manafort’s WhatsApp texts after learning he had been witness tampering using that account
  • Ruddy testified to Mueller the day after they had extracted the Manafort-Hannity texts, suggesting he was a likely candidate to be the other person whose texts showed ongoing communication with the media

DOJ may be withholding discrete paragraphs in Ruddy’s interview both because they are a Presidential Communication and because they are part of an ongoing investigation. Which seems like something CNN and BuzzFeed might want to clarify.

Hiding the most damning Sater and Bannon and (possibly) KT McFarland interviews?

Then there are three interviews DOJ claims to have turned over for which the interviewee’s name has been withheld.

One of those, for an interview on August 15, 2017, happened on a day when Mueller’s team conducted five interviews (or, given the 1-page length of three of them, more likely phone calls setting up interviews). One of those is of Andrej Krickovic, a Carter Page associate who is not listed on the master list of interviews but whose name was identified in his 302. But the interview in question is being withheld under a Presidential Communications exemption, so surely is not Krickovic. There’s a 6-page interview from that date reflected in the DOJ list of all interviews (“Mueller interview list”) that is likely the one in question. And given that the earliest released interview of KT McFarland, dated September 14, 2017, describes her being “acquainted with the interviewing agents from a previous interview,” given reports that her first most egregious lies about Flynn’s calls to Kislyak came during the summer (before it was clear that Mueller’s team was going to obtain a warrant to get Transition emails from GSA), and given the September 302 reflects her attempt to clear up several existing untruths, I’m guessing that’s hers.

There’s more evidence regarding the subjects of two other 302s from which the names have purportedly been withheld. The b5 table includes a December 15, 2017 interview being withheld exclusively as Attorney Work Product. It seems likely that this is the December 15, 2017 Felix Sater interview reflected in the Mueller interview list. Immediately before the September 19, 2017 Sater interview are 7 pages that were entirely withheld (1394 through 1400) under b3 (grand jury or classification), b6 and b7C (collectively, privacy), b7E (law enforcement sources and methods), b7F (likely risk of death), and b5. Sater is one of — if not the only — person whose interviews have been protected under b7F (which makes sense, given that he was a high level informant for years).  Plus, there’s reason to believe that Sater’s story evolved after he was interviewed by HPSCI on December 14, 2017, and DOJ seems especially interested in hiding how some of these stories changed over time. In other words, DOJ seems to be hiding the entirety of a Sater interview the existence of which they already acknowledged under a whole slew of exemptions, including Attorney Work Privilege. That would be particularly egregious, given that Mueller relied on that interview to support the following details about Trump Tower:

Given the size of the Trump Moscow project, Sater and Cohen believed the project required approval (whether express or implicit) from the Russian national government, including from the Presidential Administration of Russia.330 Sater stated that he therefore began to contact the Presidential Administration through another Russian business contact.331

[snip]

The day after this exchange, Sater tied Cohen’s travel to Russia to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (“Forum”), an annual event attended by prominent Russian politicians and businessmen. Sater told the Office that he was informed by a business associate that Peskov wanted to invite Cohen to the Forum.367

In a follow-up, I’ll explain why DOJ’s attempt to withhold this interview by hiding the existence of it even though they’ve already acknowledged it is fairly damning.

In addition, the b5 table lists a January 18, 2019 interview withheld under Presidential Communication and Deliberative Process Privilege, but not Attorney Work Product (which might suggest it was an interview FBI agents conducted with no prosecutor present). While there was stuff pending in the Jerome Corsi investigation at the time (which might explain the lack of lawyers but probably not a Presidential Communication Privilege), the only interview on that date included in the Mueller interview list involves Steve Bannon. That’s interesting because while his proffer agreement (signed by Andrew Goldstein, so seemingly reflecting Goldstein’s presence at the interview of that date) shows in the batch of 302s in which this withheld one is supposed to have appeared, his interview of that date (which is 4 pages long) does not appear. There’s not an obvious set of withheld pages that might be that interview (there are 6-page withholdings that might include it). But Bannon’s January 18, 2019 was, given some comments at the Stone trial, particularly damning and conflicts with the one (of three) Bannon 302 that has been made public. Just one sentence of the Mueller Report — pertaining to the campaign’s discussions about upcoming WikiLeaks releases but still redacted for Stone’s trial — relies on this Bannon interview, but since it does, the interview itself should not be entirely redacted. (That said, the entirety of Bannon’s 16-page October 26, 2018 302 has also been hidden in plain sight in these releases.)

There is, admittedly, varying degrees of certainty about these hypotheses. But if they are correct, it would suggest that DOJ is systematically withholding 302s that would show significant changes in testimony among people who were not charged for lying in the earlier ones. Of particularly note, they may be hiding one each that BuzzFeed (which had the lead in reporting the Felix Sater story) and CNN (which was one of the few outlets that reported how KT McFarland had to clean up her testimony) have an institutional stake in.

Rick Gerson disappeared into the same Agency review as Jared Kushner?

Finally, the b5 table reveals DOJ has “released” the two interviews from Rick Gerson, even though we’ve seen no hint of them.

You might be forgiven for forgetting who Rick Gerson is — Steven Bannon even claimed to have in his first, least forthcoming interview. He’s a hedgie who is close to Jared Kushner who actually had a key role in setting US-Russian policy from the start of the Trump Administration. George Nader introduced him to the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev, after which Gerson (who had no official role in the Transition or Administration so presumably had no security clearance) and Dmitriev put together a reconciliation plan between Russian and the US.

In addition, the UAE national security advisor introduced Dmitriev to a hedge fund manager and friend of Jared Kushner, Rick Gerson, in late November 2016. In December 2016 and January 2017, Dmitriev and Gerson worked on a proposal for reconciliation between the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied he cleared through Putin. Gerson provided that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Gerson’s two interviews are cited 17 times in the Mueller Report and cover topics including:

  • Gerson’s ties to Jared and non-existent role on the campaign
  • Gerson’s role setting up meetings with Tony Blair and Mohammed bin Zayed
  • How Nader introduced him to Dmitriev
  • How Dmitriev pitched Gerson on a potential joint venture
  • How Gerson, having been promised a business deal, then worked to figure out from Jared and Mike Flynn who was running “reconciliation” on the Transition
  • What Dmitriev claimed his relationship to Putin was
  • How Gerson, “on his own initiative and as a private citizen,” worked with Dmitriev during December 2016 to craft this “reconciliation” plan
  • How Gerson got that plan into Kushner’s hands and it formed a key part of the discussion between Trump and Putin on their January 28, 2017 call
  • How Dmitriev seemed to lose interest in doing business with Gerson once he had finished using him

A key part of this discussion relies on both Gerson’s interviews and the Kushner one that is being reviewed by an Agency.

On January 16, 2017, Dmitriev consolidated the ideas for U.S.-Russia reconciliation that he and Gerson had been discussing into a two-page document that listed five main points: (1) jointly fighting terrorism; (2) jointly engaging in anti-weapons of mass destruction efforts; (3) developing “win-win” economic and investment initiatives; (4) maintaining an honest, open, and continual dialogue regarding issues of disagreement; and (5) ensuring proper communication and trust by “key people” from each country. 1111 On January 18, 2017, Gerson gave a copy of the document to Kushner. 1112 Kushner had not heard of Dmitriev at that time. 1113 Gerson explained that Dmitriev was the head of RDIF, and Gerson may have alluded to Dmitriev’s being well connected. 1114 Kushner placed the document in a file and said he would get it to the right people. 1115 Kushner ultimately gave one copy of the document to Bannon and another to Rex Tillerson; according to Kushner, neither of them followed up with Kushner about it. 1116 On January 19, 2017, Dmitriev sent Nader a copy of the two-page document, telling him that this was “a view from our side that I discussed in my meeting on the islands and with you and with our friends. Please share with them – we believe this is a good foundation to start from.” 1117

1111 1/16/17 Text Messages; Dmitriev & Gerson.

1112 Gerson 6/5/18 302, at 3; Gerson 6/15/18 302, at 2.

1113 Gerson 6/5/18 302, at 3.

1114 Gerson 6/5/18 302, at 3; Gerson 6/15/18.302, at 1-2; Kushner 4/11/ 18 302, at 22.

1115 Gerson 6/5/18 302, at 3.

1116 Kushner 4/11/18 302, at 32.

1117 1/19/17 Text Message, Dmitriev to Nader (11: 11 :56 a.m.).

There are roughly 62 pages referred to another agency in the January 2 release (which is understood to include Kushner’s April 11, 2018 interview) is an 11-page series (1216-1226), which might be Gerson’s two interviews. That suggests we can’t even get the 302s that show how Putin’s selected envoy to the US managed to plan out the first phone call between Putin and Trump with a hedgie who went to college with Kushner with not formal ties to the Transition or Administration and no security clearance because they’re so sensitive — more sensitive than KT McFarland’s discussion of Transition national security discussions, for example — that some Agency like the CIA has to give us permission first.

Emmet Sullivan Invites Mike Flynn to Lie Under Oath One More Time

Yesterday, Mike Flynn asked for a delay in the deadline for his real motion to withdraw his guilty plea(s), pointing to recently obtained 302s of his so-called cooperation with the government to explain why the seven months since they first made it clear they were going to do this wasn’t enough time to make a coherent argument.

Judge Emmet Sullivan granted Flynn precisely the deadlines he wanted.

But along with the delay, Sullivan ordered Flynn to brief the standards for withdrawing a plea in the DC Circuit and the need to have witnesses testify under oath to support that standard.

MINUTE ORDER as to MICHAEL T. FLYNN granting [157] Defendant’s Second Motion to Continue Briefing Deadlines. The parties shall adhere to the following modified briefing schedule: (1) Mr. Flynn shall file his “Supplemental Motion to Withdraw for alternative additional reasons” by no later than 12:00 PM on January 29, 2020; (2) the government shall file its response to Mr. Flynn’s motion and supplemental motion by no later than 12:00 PM on February 12, 2020; and (3) Mr. Flynn shall file his reply brief by no later than 12:00 PM on February 18, 2020. Mr. Flynn’s supplemental motion and the government’s response shall address the following: (1) the standard in this Circuit for a defendant seeking to withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing; and (2) the need for an evidentiary hearing where the parties would present all testimony and evidence concerning the issue of whether Mr. Flynn can show that there is good cause to set aside his guilty pleas, see United States v. Cray, 47 F.3d 1203, 1206 (D.C. Cir. 1995), including testimony from Mr. Flynn and other witnesses under oath, subject to cross-examination, to show any “fair and just reason” for this Court to grant his motion to withdraw, Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d). Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 1/24/2020.

Flynn is fucked.

That’s true, because the precedent Sullivan pointed to is a case very similar to Flynn’s. A defendant pointed to a comment he had made to his probation officer, claiming he was not guilty of all the things he was pleading to, but the District Court found that the claim not only didn’t address what he had pled guilty to, but also did not offer enough to rebut his original guilty plea.

Cray points to a conversation with his probation officer, which was reflected in his presentence investigation report as follows:  “[Cray] advised that while he is guilty of some of the offense behavior, he is not guilty of all he is charged with.”   In response to questions from the court, Cray acknowledged that he had made this statement with reference to the original 11-count indictment, not to the two-count superseding information to which he ultimately pled guilty.   Even if we take the statement as an assertion of his innocence of the charges to which he ultimately pled guilty, however, it comes up short.   A defendant appealing the denial of his motion to withdraw a guilty plea, unlike a defendant who has not first pled guilty, must do more than make a general denial in order to put the Government to its proof;  he must affirmatively advance an objectively reasonable argument that he is innocent, see Barker, 514 F.2d at 226 n. 17, for he has waived his right simply to try his luck before a jury.   Cray’s claim falls far short of what we require before finding that a district court that committed no error under Rule 11 nevertheless abused its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

As it is, the claims Flynn is making about not being guilty of making false statements under FARA conflict with his sworn grand jury testimony, the testimony of Rob Kelner, and the notes of what he told Covington. So if he — and Kelner — were put under oath, the evidence would show that the reason he is offering is bullshit.

More importantly, Flynn has made no claim that he didn’t lie to the FBI in his January 24, 2017 interview. In his filing the other day, he simply renewed claims he made in December 2018 that he already disavowed, under oath, before Judge Sullivan. So, like Lyman Cray, he’s trying to withdraw his guilty plea by claiming he’s innocent of just some of the things he pled guilty to.

Finally, Flynn will need to prove three things to withdraw his plea. One of those things is that he must show a substantial reason why the judge who originally accepted his plea committed an error.

Read together, Barker and Rule 32 set out three factors to consider in order to establish whether the district court abused its discretion when it refused to allow the defendant to withdraw his plea of guilty.   First, a defendant generally must make out a legally cognizable defense to the charge against him.   Second, and most important, the defendant must show either an error in the taking of his plea or some “more substantial” reason he failed to press his case rather than plead guilty.   Finally, if those two factors warrant, the court may then inquire whether the Government would have been substantially prejudiced by the delay in going to trial.

In this case, of course, Sullivan put Flynn under oath for his second guilty plea, and made him state that he didn’t think his complaints about his original FBI interview in any way negated his guilt.

In short, Sullivan is setting up this plea withdraw such that Flynn may be arguing he lied under oath twice: once in his grand jury appearance and once in his guilty plea in 2018.

It’s probably not a good way to get out of a charge of false statements, by claiming under oath that you lied under oath twice.

Sidney Powell Wants to Have Mike Flynn’s Acceptance of Responsibility and Claims of Innocence Too

Eight days ago, in a filing moving to withdraw Mike Flynn’s plea deal, Sidney Powell said this:

Michael T. Flynn is innocent.

Today, in her sentencing memo, Sidney Powell makes no such claim. Instead, she claims that since November 2017 — 8 months after the second of two lies he pled guilty to, under oath, twice — he has mostly told the truth (a claim that is probably not true).

Since November 2017 (and before), Mr. Flynn told the government the truth about every question it asked him, including what he knows concerning the Flynn Intel Group’s (“FIG”) involvement with Inovo BV, Ekim Altepkin, and the Government of Turkey.

Her only mentions of the primary crime to which Mike Flynn pled guilty are — first — to nod to a brief that backfired when it was filed the first time and which Flynn disavowed under oath before Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Mr. Flynn previously briefed the unique circumstances of the January 24, 2017 FBI “interview” at issue. ECF No. 50 at 7-9.

And, then, to call his out and out lies to the FBI about what he said to the Russian Ambassador an “alleged false statement.”

Admittedly, Mr. Flynn was a high-ranking government official, as was Mr. Wolfe who was charged with a § 1001 violation. That is the only similarity. Mr. Flynn did not participate in any “repeated” conduct. He did not use his position to participate in illegal conduct. Additionally, Mr. Flynn’s alleged false statement did not result in the “significant disruption of an important governmental function” nor did it “significantly impact national security.”

The rest of her sentencing memo, aside from competent arguments about base level sentences and reminding over and over that Flynn served in the military for a long time (which backfired when Rob Kelner raised it in December 2018), consists of the same arguments she made in her motion to withdraw his plea, arguments that conflict in key ways with his sworn grand jury testimony and blame everyone else for false claims that not only reflect what he told his lawyersbut which he signed his name to, repeatedly.

The government also continues its campaign to hold Mr. Flynn responsible for false statements in a FARA filing. It ignores the facts in its possession as well as the decision of another court. Any misstatements in the March 2017 FARA filing at issue were not the fault of Mr. Flynn. He gave his lawyers complete and accurate documents and information. Moreover, he did his part to make sure any FARA filing was accurate. The FARA statements listed in the Statement of Offense (ECF No. 4) are either not false or not attributable to Mr. Flynn.

To counter these claims, government can and will lay out:

  • How the Covington notes and lawyers’ 302s show Flynn lied to his lawyers, which led directly to false statements in his FARA filing
  • Show how Flynn’s sworn grand jury testimony (which she doesn’t mention) undermines her claims that the EDVA prosecutors tried to get Flynn to lie last year
  • Lay out how Powell is making utterly misleading claims about what the government said about Flynn’s exposure to false statements and conspiracy charges
  • Explain that the reason Judge Anthony Trenga ruled there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict against Bijan Kian was precisely because Flynn reneged on the testimony laid out in his sworn grand jury transcript

That will leave Flynn with his motion to withdraw his guilty plea in tatters, and any claim he is taking responsibility for his crimes shot to hell.

Trump Flunkies Trading Legal Relief for Campaign Dirt: Julian Assange and Dmitro Firtash

When we discuss Trump’s abuse of pardon authority, we generally talk about how he has used it to persuade close associates to refuse to cooperate or affirmatively obstruct investigations into him. If you believe Michael Cohen, Jay Sekulow floated group pardons early in the Mueller investigation before he realized it would backfire, but he did suggest Trump would take care of Cohen in summer 2017; Rudy Giuliani reportedly repeated those assurances after Cohen got raided in April 2018. Trump has repeatedly assailed the prosecutions of Paul Manafort and Roger Stone and suggested they might be rewarded with pardons for their loyalty. Trump has even suggested Mike Flynn might receive a pardon, which is good because his current attorney seems intent on blowing up his plea deal.

Even within the Mueller Report, however, there was a hint of a different kind of abuse of pardons. Trump was asked if he had discussed a pardon for Assange prior to inauguration day.

Did you have any discussions prior to January 20, 2017, regarding a potential pardon or other action to benefit Julian Assange? If yes, describe who you had the discussion(s) with, when, and the content of the discussion(s).

I do not recall having had any discussion during the campaign regarding a pardon or action to benefit Julian Assange.

Trump gave a typically non-responsive answer, claiming to not recall any such discussions rather than denying them outright, and limiting his answer to the campaign period, and not the transition period.

By the time Mueller asked the question, there was already abundant public evidence of a year-long effort on behalf of Trump’s flunkies to get Assange a pardon in exchange for mainstreaming his alternative version of how he obtained the emails he published in 2016. In the Stone trial, Randy Credico described how Stone reached out to Margaret Kunstler to initiate such discussions; that happened in late 2016.

At the very least, that suggests Trump’s flunkies were trying to reward Julian Assange for providing them dirt during the election. Sure, we don’t know whether those flunkies ran such proposals by Trump; we certainly don’t have the details about how Trump responded. But someone in Trump’s immediate orbit, Stone, moved to reward Assange’s actions by trying to get him immunized from any legal problems he had with the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that in mind, consider these documents that Lev Parnas provided to HPSCI. Part of a set of notes that Parnas took last June while on a call from Rudy, it lays out what plan Parnas was supposed to present to Dmitro Firtash.

The idea was that Parnas would find a way to get rid of Lanny Davis as Firtash’s US lawyer on extradition, to be replaced by Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing. Meanwhile, Rudy would be in “DC” with a “package” that would allow him to work his “magic” to cut a “deal.” The package, it seems would involve relief from Firtash’s legal woes — an indictment for bribery in Chicago — plus some PR to make it possible for Firtash (whom just three months earlier Rudy was loudly accusing of having ties to the Russian mob) to do business in the US again. In exchange for totally perverting the US justice system so that a corrupt businessman could access the US market again, Rudy would get … bogus dirt about Joe Biden and a claim that somehow Ukraine’s publication of details on Paul Manafort’s corruption that Manafort knew about two months in advance improperly affected the 2016 election. Possibly, given other things Parnas said, it would also include a claim that Andrew Weissmann was asking Firtash for information on Manafort.

Remember: another of the oligarchs whom Manafort had crossed in the past, Oleg Deripaska, spent most of 2016 trying to feed up information to the FBI to get him indicted, even while tightening the screws on Manafort to get information about the Trump campaign. But Rudy Giuliani wants to suggest that asking Manafort’s former business partners for details of their work would be proof that Democrats cheated in 2016.

Regardless, these notes, if authentic, show that Rudy Giuliani believed he could make Firtash’s legal problems go away.

And all he would ask in exchange — besides a million dollars for his friends and another $200,000  for Parnas, chump change for Firtash — would be transparently shoddy propaganda to use to discredit the prosecution of Paul Manafort and hurt the reputation of Joe Biden.

Dirt for legal relief. A quid pro quo of a different sort.

Once again, there’s not yet any evidence that Trump’s flunkie — his ostensible defense attorney this time, not his rat-fucker — had looped Trump into this plot. Here, the legal relief would come via connections with Bill Barr (possibly with a nudge from the President), not Trump’s executive authority alone.

But in both cases, Trump’s closest associates appear to believe that the proper currency with which to obtain shoddy campaign dirt is legal relief.

As I disclosed in 2018, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation.

The Procedural Weakness of Sidney Powell’s Attempt to Blow Up Mike Flynn’s Plea Deal

As I noted earlier this week, after six months of threatening to do so, Mike Flynn has formally moved to blow up his plea deal. His initial motion to justify doing so was all but silent about the main crime he pled guilty to — lying about his phone calls with Sergei Kislyak — and instead presented a bunch of block quotes purporting to show Brandon Van Grack pushed him to lie, but often in fact laying out proof that Flynn lied — to the FBI, to his own lawyers, even to Judge Emmet Sullivan himself.

So the bid to gain any advantage beyond delay until such time as Trump can pardon Flynn isn’t going so well, as a matter of legal argument.

But a recent docket gaffe demonstrates the degree to which this effort is a procedural shitshow, too.

The parties were supposed to be operating under Emmet Sullivan’s order, dated December 16, to provide supplements to the sentencing memos they submitted back in 2018, which — after several government continuances — meant the government’s supplement sentencing memo was due January 7 and Flynn’s was due January 22. The government met that deadline.

Sometime after the government submission, Flynn’s lawyers asked the government for a continuance based on the government’s changed recommendations, which the government alerted Flynn to last September. The government agreed to a delay — for sentencing. But then at the last minute, after planning to do so for six months, Flynn’s team pulled a head fake, and informed the government they really wanted a delay so they could figure out some basis on which to withdraw his plea.

Mr. Flynn also requests a continuance of the sentencing date set for January 28, 2020, for thirty days or until February 27, 2020, or such other subsequent day that is convenient to the Court and counsel, and a corresponding extension of time to file any supplemental sentencing memorandum (from January 22, 2020, to February 21, 2020). The continuance is requested to allow time for the government to respond to the most recent aspects of this Motion and for Mr. Flynn to provide the additional briefing he needs to protect the record and his constitutional rights in light of significant developments in the last thirty days.

In response, Sullivan deferred on Flynn’s motion to withdraw his plea, and set the following new deadlines in response to the request for continuance:

  • January 22: Supplemental motion to withdraw
  • February 5: Government response to motion to withdraw
  • February 12: Flynn reply on motion to withdraw

There was no explicit new deadline in there for a new sentencing memo from Flynn, meaning it would be due on January 22.

In response, Flynn asked for two more days, allowing it time to respond on sentencing and bumping the withdraw 2 days out on the first two deadlines, or 5 on the reply. Flynn also asked for 5PM deadlines even though Sullivan has been insisting on noon deadlines for months.

  • January 24, 5:00PM: Supplemental motion to withdraw
  • February 7, 5:00PM: Government response to motion to withdraw
  • February 17, 5:00PM: Flynn reply on motion to withdraw

Sullivan, today, responded to that request by granting the initial deadlines but shortening the last and insisting on his noon deadlines.

  • January 24, 12:00PM: Supplemental motion to withdraw
  • February 7, 12:00PM: Government response to motion to withdraw
  • February 13, 12:00PM: Flynn reply on motion to withdraw

All that’s fairly uncontroversial, just a dance over how much time Sullivan is willing to bump a sentencing after trying to get it done so that Flynn can lay what will amount to a basis for appeal on a risky scheme to blow up his plea.

But that left Flynn with two sets of documents: the sentencing memo, due January 22, which will be critical if they lose the request to withdraw, which is likely, and the supplemental motion to withdraw, due January 24, which must meet a very high legal bar and lay the groundwork for appeal, which is probably where this is going.

And then Flynn just spluttered out something called a supplemental brief to withdraw. The brief was just six pages, didn’t advance any new legal arguments, and repeated many of the same arguments (and one of the same exhibits) submitted last week. Effectively, that amounted to legally shooting their wad on an argument totally insufficient to an attempt to take back two guilty pleas, without ever addressing the crime to which Flynn actually pled guilty, lying about his Kislyak conversations.

Again, Flynn’s team has known they were going to make this argument since June, and they spluttered out their argument just like that.

They must have realized that they, formally at least, had fucked up, because they resubmitted the same thing but with a footnote:

This is not Mr. Flynn’s “Supplemental Motion to Withdraw for Alternative Additional Reasons” currently due to be filed on January 22, 2020, for which we have requested two additional days to complete and file.

This is just an honest fuckup by people who are playing a really high stakes game of poker and really frazzled about it, even if they’ve been planning on all this since June.

But it appears Flynn really hasn’t thought up a good reason to argue why he has to withdraw even from his plea agreement, much less the underlying lies about Kislyak.

Which is a pretty lousy position to be in when you’re playing such a high stakes gambit.

In a Filing Claiming He’s Innocent, Mike Flynn’s Lawyers Accuse Mike Flynn of Lying Under Oath

Seven months after hiring Sidney Powell to blow up his plea deal, Mike Flynn has formally moved to do just that. The filing claims he is doing so because the government was mean — or more formally, “bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.”

Flynn claims being asked to testify in accordance with his grand jury testimony required him to lie

The core of Flynn’s argument is that the government newly asked him to testify that he knowingly lied in his FARA filing last summer, which led him to refuse, which led the government to decide not to use him as a witness and instead attempt (unsuccessfully) to name Flynn as a co-conspirator to access what his testimony would have otherwise given, which led them to have Judge Anthony Trenga throw out their convictions post-trial.

It’s the same argument that Flynn made last summer, even before the trial — which I showed at the time to misrepresent:

  • The point of the FARA filing (to change it from a commercial agreement to one focusing on Turkey)
  • The Covington & Burling notes
  • The statements prosecutors had made in court about whether Flynn was a co-conspirator with Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin

Flynn bolsters that shoddy argument with citations from the Bijan Kian trial that he claims show that the judge in that case, Anthony Trenga, agrees with him about his company’s underlying tie to Turkey, but in fact only shows that after Flynn blew up his plea deal, it fucked the government’s case against Kian.

They add just one substantive piece of evidence to all that: that the government took out a line saying “FLYNN then and there knew the following” in his statement of offense.

But even as that redline makes clear, the underlying lies (save the one about Alptekin’s cut-out deal) were all laid out before that language. Moreover, Flynn testified to all those things laid out there in his grand jury testimony, under oath.

Q: From the beginning of the project what was your understanding about on whose behalf the work was going to be performed?

A: I think at the — from the beginning it was always on behalf of elements of the Turkish government.

Q: Would it [sic] fair to say that the project was going to be principally for the benefit of the government of Turkey or high-ranking Turkish officials?

A: Yes, yeah.

[snip]

Q: What was the principle focus of the work product that FIG did produce on the project?

A: The eventual work product or products that we had come up with was really focusing on Gulen.

Q: Was any work done on researching the state of the business climate in Turkey?

A: Not that I’m aware of or none that I recall.

[snip]

Q: Is it fair to say that Mr. Alptekin acted as a go-between between FIG and Turkish government officials?

A: Yes.

[snip]

Q: What work product do you know of that was not about Gulen?

A: I don’t think there was anything that we had done that had anything to do with, you know, anything else like business climates or stuff like that.

[snip]

Q: Do you see the byline of the article? [referring to Flynn’s November 8, 2016 op-ed]

A: Yep, I do, yeah.

[snip]

Q: Whose name is listed as the author of the op-ed?

A: My name.

Q: How did you first find out that this op-ed was in the works?

A: Bijan sent me a draft of it a copy of days prior, maybe about a week prior.

[snip]

Q: Did you sketch out specific ideas for this particular op-ed with him before you saw the draft?

A: No.

As noted, these sworn statements conflict in key ways with the notes of what Flynn told Covington (meaning he lied to the lawyers drawing up his FARA filing).

And they conflict with the evidence that Flynn’s own filing says is proof that he was honest with Covington, because Flynn offered the false “commercial activity” and “radical Islam” comments he disavowed in his grand jury.

12 ECF No. 150-4 and 6; ECF No. 98-3 at Ex. 7 (Entitled Statement of the Problem: How do we restore confidence in the government of the Republic of Turkey and expose the Fethullah Gulen cult in the United States”); ECF No. 98-3 at Ex. 8 and 8-A (Covington Feb. 22, 2017 Notes: Commercial ActivityàCrystalized à Gulen); ECF No. 150-5 at 4; 150-6 at 2.

13 ECF No. 150-5, FBI 302 of Brian Smith on June 21, 2018, never produced by the government to Mr. Flynn (yet clear Brady evidence long exonerating Mr. Flynn of one of the prosecution’s most ridiculous allegations regarding the “initiation” of the only op-ed written and published in connection with the project). Even the recently filed, never produced FBI 302s prove that the FBI and prosecutors knew in mid-2018 from Covington lawyer Brian Smith that he: “was aware of the September 2016 meeting in New York City (NYC) where FLYNN and RAFIEKIAN met with Turkish government officials.” ECF No.150-5 at 5. “The meeting primarily focused on radical Islam. Briefly during the meeting, FIG described their business for ALPTEKIN/INOVO.” Id. “The topic of GULEN was brought up by Turkish officials at the meeting.” Id.

Effectively, then, Powell provides evidence that her client lied, either to the lawyers doing the FARA filing and/or in the grand jury, to say nothing of his two guilty pleas under oath.

Flynn’s lawyers also provide claims that are entirely irrelevant to the charges against Flynn.

Former FBI official Brian McCauley attended the New York meeting with the Turks. As McCauley testified in Rafiekian, the Turks gave no one instructions in that meeting, and Alptekin was not happy with any of FIG’s work. McCauley slapped down most of his ideas. See Ex. 10.

Significantly, Flynn also told Covington in their first meeting, that he briefed DIA before meeting the Turks in New York in September 2016.

And she makes much of the fact that Flynn didn’t review his FARA filing with Kian — which is irrelevant to whether he signed his name to filings that made claims that contradict with his sworn testimony in the grand jury.

On June 25, 2018, while represented by Covington—months before the government filed its sentencing motion and bragged about Mr. Flynn’s full cooperation and special assistance at his scheduled sentencing in December 2018—Mr. Flynn specifically told them:

I told this to you the other day, I don’t go over the FARA filing with Bijan [Rafiekian] at all. I don’t know if that makes any different to you all. But it wasn’t . . . learn a lot of things in hindsight. Would it have adjusted what I, how I stated, how I filled out, can’t say that it may have adjusted what I filled out; can’t say it would or would not have.1

It’s genuinely unclear whether Flynn’s lawyers are simply unclear on the concept, or whether they are just gleefully gaslighting Judge Emmet Sullivan with the expectation that won’t piss him off.

Flynn’s lawyers repeat the claim that Rob Kelner was conflicted that Judge Sullivan already rejected

In addition to having to claim that Flynn didn’t refuse to provide testimony in accord with his grand jury testimony, Flynn’s team also must sustain a claim that Rob Kelner was conflicted when he advised Flynn to take a plea deal that — had he not run his mouth, he would have already served his probation and been done.

They don’t actually argue that. Instead, they argue that after Flynn blew up his plea deal, the government obtained testimony from Kelner that — they believed — might sustain the prosecution. Flynn’s team claims that the prosecutor asked tricky questions of his fellow lawyer.

The prosecutors told the new defense lawyers that they would question Mr. Kelner in his July 3, 2019, interview about the Covington notes new counsel had just provided to the government—showing that Mr. Flynn had been fulsome with his counsel—but Mr. Turgeon did not do so. Instead, Mr. Turgeon carefully worded his questions to elicit responses from former counsel that were misleading at best, if not directly contradicted by the notes by Covington’s notetaker and partner Brian Smith. See, United States v. Rafiekian, Case No. 1:18-cr-457, ECF No. 270.

Within minutes of concluding the interview of Mr. Kelner, AUSA James Gillis called defense counsel only to notify us that he would not be calling Mr. Flynn as a witness, and that counsel would be receiving a gag order that prohibited counsel from disclosing that fact.

The actual 302 in question shows Kelner laying out evidence that Kian had lied about the role of Turkey in the project, and Flynn had either not informed or lied to Kelner about key issues relating to the filing. And just as Kelner laid out some of the most damning details, Powell complained that Kelner was being asked about the filing.

(U//FOUO) FLYNN did not inform KELNER that Fethullah GULEN was a focus of the FIG/INOVO project. FLYNN did not inform KELNER that ALPTEKIN was a conduit or go-between for FIG and Turkish officials during the project. FLYNN did not inform KELNER that ALPTEKIN talked to Turkish government officials about the FIG/INOVO project. FLYNN described the FIG/INOVO project as dealing with improving the economic relations between Turkey and the United States. FLYNN never provided inconsistences to KELNER on the work FIG provided to INOVO.

(U//FOUO) {Note: at approximately 4pm (approximately two hours into the interview of KELNER), Sidney Powell asked Turgeon why KELNER was being asked questions about FLYNN considering RAFIEKIAN was the defendant. Turgeon explained to Powell that KELNER could expect these types of questions during his cross examination by defense attorneys.}

(U//FOUO) KELNER did not recall having asked FLYNN about what/if any work product was completed by FIG for INOVO which pertained to Gulen. KELNER understood from FLYNN that FIG’s work for INOVO focused on the business environment in Turkey.

(U//FOUO) KELNER was informed by FLYNN the published 11/8/2016 Op-Ed article in The Hill was something he, FLYNN, had wanted to do out of his own interest. FLYNN wanted to show how Russia was attempting to create a wedge between Turkey and the United States. FLYNN informed KELNER the Op-Ed was not on behalf of FIG’s project with INOVO.

Worse, Judge Sullivan already ruled against Flynn, finding his waiver of conflict with Kelner both permissible and voluntary.

Rule 1.7(a)’s “absolute prohibition” on conflicting representations in the same matter is “inapplicable” where “the adverse positions to be taken relate to different matters.” D.C. Rules Prof’l Conduct R. 1.7(a) cmt. 3. Here, Mr. Flynn does not argue that his former counsel advanced adverse positions in this criminal matter. See Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 21; see also Def.’s Surreply, ECF No. 135 at 16. Instead, Mr. Flynn contends that his former counsel was an adverse witness in the case in the Eastern District of Virginia—a different jurisdiction and a different matter involving a different defendant. Furthermore, the government did not bring criminal charges based on the FARA filings against Mr. Flynn in this case or in the separate case in the Eastern District of Virginia. Thus, the Court will assume that Mr. Flynn relies on Rule 1.7(b) because he cites to Rule 1.7(c)(2), Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 21 n.14, and “FIG and [Mr.] Flynn subsequently retained Covington to represent them in connection with any potential FARA filing,” Rafiekian, 2019 WL 4647254, at *5.

[snip]

Here, it is undisputed that this Court did not have the opportunity to address the conflict-of-interest issue, determine whether an actual conflict existed at the time, or decide whether Mr. Flynn’s waiver of the potential conflict of interest was knowing and voluntary. Cf. Iacangelo v. Georgetown Univ., 710 F. Supp. 2d 83, 94 (D.D.C. 2010) (scheduling a hearing to determine whether a client gave his “informed consent” to determine whether a law firm had a waivable conflict of interest). Mr. Flynn cites no controlling precedent to support the proposition that the government was required to bring the conflict-of-interest issue to the Court’s attention. See Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 22. And Mr. Flynn does not ask this Court to find—and the Court cannot find—that his waiver was neither knowing nor voluntary.

Admittedly, Powell has to repeat “unconflicted” over and over again, otherwise this attempt is even more foolish than the record laying out Flynn’s lies demonstrate. But she’s making claims that are likely to only infuriate Sullivan.

Flynn throws balls at the wall in a furious hope one will stick

Powell then lists three things that have happened recently to justify needing a continuance to blow up a plea deal she has obviously been planning on blowing up since June:

  • The DOJ IG report that says almost nothing about Flynn
  • The government’s provision — after just two months — of a bunch of 302s showing Flynn’s cooperation, but making no complaint about it
  • Sullivan’s own opinion that, Powell complains, doesn’t address the IG Report that neither side briefed to him

Except for a later reference, in a footnote, to the fact that a Supervisory Special Agent on his investigative team provided Trump the briefing that Flynn attended as his top National Security advisor (this is the single thing in the IG Report that really impacted Flynn), Flynn’s filing doesn’t explain why any of these things requires a delay.

Flynn claims to be surprised the government changed its sentencing recommendation that they said they were going to do in September

Again, Flynn has been planning to blow up this plea deal since last summer. Powell hasn’t hidden that fact. She has no real reason to blow it up, though. So, first, she cites a SCOTUS precedent that — aside from making it clear that if she wants to complain she has to do so now — otherwise works against every claim she makes (insofar as it said the government can show how a defendants subsequent conduct may reflect failure to accept responsibility).

This about-face places the government in breach of the plea agreement and triggers application of the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Puckett, 556 U.S. 129. Puckett requires any competent defense counsel in these circumstances to move to withdraw Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea for this reason alone. Id

Puckett is a Supreme Court decision that primarily had to do with when a defendant complained about the government changing its stance in a plea (which supports the timing of Flynn doing so here), but which Powell seems to include because it included language saying that such change violated his rights. Except Puckett also didn’t include a cooperation agreement — the part of Flynn’s plea that’s in most dispute — and ultimately SCOTUS held that Puckett’s sentence would have been fair in any case (not least because the government could have shown the defendant withdrew his acceptance of responsibility, as they are also doing here).

When a defendant agrees to a plea bargain, the Government takes on certain obligations. If those obligations are not met, the defendant is entitled to seek a remedy, which might in some cases be rescission of the agreement, allowing him to take back the consideration he has furnished, i.e., to withdraw his plea. But rescission is not the only possible remedy; in Santobello we allowed for a resentencing at which the Government would fully comply with the agreement—in effect, specific performance of the contract. 404 U. S., at 263. In any case, it is entirely clear that a breach does not cause the guilty plea, when entered, to have been unknowing or involuntary. It is precisely because the plea was knowing and voluntary (and hence valid) that the Government is obligated to uphold its side of the bargain.

In short, the only precedent Flynn relies on to justify blowing up this plea deal actually supports the government, not him.

The government is still mean

Which brings us to the most remarkable paragraph in this filing.

Mr. Flynn has instructed counsel to file this Motion to withdraw his plea now. The defense must file a Supplemental Motion to Withdraw for alternative additional reasons as soon as possible. Mr. Flynn will not plead guilty. Furthermore, he will not accede to the government’s demand that he “disavow” any statements made in his filings since he obtained new, unconflicted counsel. Michael T. Flynn is innocent. Mr. Flynn has cooperated with the government in good faith for two years. He gave the prosecution his full cooperation. “He held nothing back.” He endured massive, unnecessary, and frankly counterproductive demands on his time, his family, his scarce resources, and his life. The same cannot be said for the prosecution which has operated in bad faith from the inception of the “investigation” and continues relentlessly through this specious prosecution.

First, Powell says she “must” file a supplemental motion to withdraw the plea “as soon as possible.” Having not provided any real reason to do so here — aside from the government being mean — Sullivan is in no way obliged to let her file that follow-up motion. Powell says “Flynn will not plead guilty.” But he has already done so, twice, under oath! She says he will not disavow any statements, except that either he has to disavow his sworn grand jury testimony, or his subsequent statements, because they are fundamentally inconsistent (but they are consistent with his sworn guilty pleas). Perhaps most amazingly, in a filing where Powell never once claims that the primary crime to which Flynn pled, lying about Russia, was not a lie. He’s just innocent because committing a crime, for him, cannot be a crime, I guess. She ignores that Flynn reneged on his testimony so as to be able to claim he cooperated in good faith. She includes a quote — “He held nothing back,” — without citing it (it’s a comment Brandon Van Grack made in December 2018, before Flynn blew up the plea deal). She bitches about how much time it takes to cooperate (cooperation that he has blown up, requiring him to spend far more time blowing up his plea deal).

And then she says the government is mean again.

Flynn tricked the government into agreeing to a one month continuance

Curiously, it appears Flynn tricked the government into agreeing to a one month continuance, one Powell will presumably use to invent a real reason to withdraw his plea or hope that John Durham will find a Sparkle Pony.

Immediately after the government submitted its sentencing memo, Flynn’s lawyers started asking the government to agree to this continuance. They agreed to do so, but for the purpose of giving Flynn’s lawyers time to do a new sentencing memo.

We write to provide a response to your request for our position regarding your suggested amended sentencing dates in this case. In short, we do not oppose a continuance of the due date for your supplemental sentencing memorandum and the date of sentencing. In light of your request, we also ask that the Court schedule a due date for a government reply memorandum one week after the date upon which your supplemental sentencing memorandum is due.

But this was for sentencing, not for giving Powell time to come up with some reason why Flynn should not be charged with perjury for his sworn statements — before two judges and in the grand jury — that are inconsistent with his request to withdraw this plea.

Only after the defense got the agreement to continue sentencing did they inform the government that they were going to, instead, use the time blowing up the plea deal.

Defense counsel contacted the government shortly before filing this Motion to Withdraw the Plea. The government had not replied at the time of filing.

Thus far, neither the government nor Sullivan have responded to this filing. But both would be well within their rights to tell Flynn to fuck off, and prepare for sentencing in a week, as originally scheduled.

The Bigger Threat for Flynn than Six Months in Prison: the Counterintelligence Language

As I laid out in this post on the government sentencing memo for Mike Flynn, they basically gave Judge Emmet Sullivan all the justification he’d need to throw the book at Mike Flynn, certainly a few months in prison and maybe more.

But that may not be the most worrisome stuff in this memo, particularly given Robert Mueller’s statement, in July, that the FBI continued to investigate aspects of Flynn’s false statements about Russia.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?

MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Currently?

MUELLER: Currently.

The Flynn sentencing memo, for lying about whether he had discussed sanctions with Russia, speaks over and over again about the questions I laid out here: why Flynn lied and whether he did it on Trump’s orders, questions rather conspicuously not answered in the Mueller Report.

On top of repeatedly referring to the “FBI counterintelligence” investigation, for example, for the first time I remember, the government discusses the scope of the inquiry to include whether any Trump associates took actions that would benefit Russia (the Mueller Report did say that it did not establish “coordination” trading Russian assistance during the election for favorable treatment in the future, though there were temporal limits on the scope of that part of the investigation, not including the transition).

The inquiry included examining relationships between individuals associated with the campaign and the Russian government, as well as identifying actions of such individuals that would have benefited the Russian government.

Much later, the memo describes undermining sanctions — what Flynn did, then lied about — as possible evidence of that kind of benefit to Russia.

The topic of sanctions went to the heart of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation. Any effort to undermine those sanctions could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia.

The sentencing memo even raises the import of who directed that Flynn ask Russian to hold off on retaliating on sanctions — again, something very pointedly not answered in the Mueller Report, but the answer to which might either be “because Trump ordered him to” or “because then counterintelligence suspect Mike Flynn was acting as an Agent of Russia.”

Any effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Accordingly, determining the extent of the defendant’s actions, why the defendant took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

After raising the import of benefits to Russia like undermining sanctions, the sentencing memo also focuses on why Flynn lied, something else that has not been fully explained.

It was material to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation to know the full extent of the defendant’s communications with the Russian Ambassador, and why he lied to the FBI about those communications.

The sentencing memo describes how the Intelligence Community Assessment raised the stakes on Russia’s actions in the immediate wake of his sanctions call with Sergey Kislyak and how Flynn started lying shortly thereafter and just kept on lying. But that doesn’t explain why he lied in the first place — or why he and KT McFarland created a false paper trail immediately after Kislyak informed Flynn they would not respond.

In one of the memo’s most scathing passages, however, it ties Flynn’s lies — about both Turkey and Russia — to monetizing his influence and power.

The defendant’s conduct was more than just a series of lies; it was an abuse of trust. During the defendant’s pattern of criminal conduct, he was the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General. He held a security clearance with access to the government’s most sensitive information. The only reason the Russian Ambassador contacted the defendant about the sanctions is because the defendant was the incoming National Security Advisor, and thus would soon wield influence and control over the United States’ foreign policy. That is the same reason the defendant’s fledgling company was paid over $500,000 to work on issues for Turkey. The defendant monetized his power and influence over our government, and lied to mask it. When the FBI and DOJ needed information that only the defendant could provide, because of that power and influence, he denied them that information. And so an official tasked with protecting our national security, instead compromised it. [my emphasis]

This may just be shorthand or an attempt to spin both Flynn’s charged lies in most damning light (though this filing has been reviewed with such attention that the government had to get two extensions for the necessary review). But the passage suggests he was engaged in sleazy influence peddling both when he secretly acted as an agent of Turkey while serving as Trump’s top national security campaign advisor, and when he took a call during the Transition and worked to undermine President Obama’s sanctions on Russia. The first is obviously influence peddling, and its import for national security is also fairly clear.

It’s also obvious how the second — Flynn’s attempts to undermine sanctions — compromised national security. The effort basically attempted to eliminate any punishment for Russia’s attempt to pick our President.

What’s not clear, however, is whether (and if so, why) the government includes his calls to Sergey Kislyak in a passage describing him “monetizing his power and influence.”

And Flynn should have known better, the memo implies. Among the reasons why Flynn’s extensive government service is so important, the government explains, is that he should have known the counterintelligence danger from Russia.

The defendant’s extensive military record, as described in his prior sentencing submission, presents a clear factor in mitigation. See Def. Sent’g Mem. at 7-12. However, that extensive record and government service, at the highest levels of the national security apparatus, and his “many years” of working with the FBI, should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false statements to the government. See id. at 13. That work also exposed him to the threat posed by foreign governments, in particular Russia, seeking to covertly influence our government and democracy.

The sentencing memo gives Emmet Sullivan lots of reason to want to punish Flynn more aggressively than any of the other liars busted by Mueller. In does so, in part, by laying out the stakes of his sleazy influence peddling, describing how it made the country less safe.

And then, the memo notes the Russian government continues its attempts to interfere in “our democratic process,” something that is broader than elections.

The sentence should also to deter others from lying to the government. The FBI protects our homeland from terrorism, espionage, cyber-based attacks, and all other manner of threats. Lying to the FBI, in any context, cannot be tolerated. That is particularly true in a counterintelligence investigation targeting efforts by a foreign government to interfere in our democratic process—a threat that continues to this day.

The sentencing memo argues that Flynn’s lies made it harder for the FBI to protect the country from Russia’s efforts to undermine our democracy and speaks obliquely in terms of benefit and monetization. These oblique references to the counterintelligence investigation ought to be of far more concern to Flynn than the prospect of six months in prison.

Prosecutors Invite Emmet Sullivan to Throw the Book at Mike Flynn

Technically, the scathing sentencing memo for Mike Flynn the government just submitted calls for the same sentence they called for in December 2018, when he was first set to be sentenced, something they note explicitly: a guidelines sentence of 0-6 months in prison.

[T]he government recommends that the court sentence the defendant within the applicable Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

[snip]

The government notes its decision to withdraw its motion for substantial assistance has no impact on the applicable Guidelines range, which will remain 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

But in their sentencing disparity section, they argue Flynn’s actions are worse than those of George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan (because of his position of trust and security clearance) and Rick Gates and James Wolfe (because they accepted responsibility), all of whom served prison time.

Along the way, they give Judge Emmet Sullivan all the ammunition he needs and write the memo in such a way as to invite him to, at least, sentence Flynn at the top of a guidelines sentence, 6 months of prison.

Before Flynn fired the very competent Rob Kelner and hired Fox News firebreather Sidney Powell and then blew up his cooperation deal, the government had argued he should be sentenced at the low end of that range, meaning probation. They justify implying he should get a real prison sentence now because of the way he undermined the prosecution of his former partner, Bijan Kian, and reneged on his acceptance of responsibility.

Given the serious nature of the defendant’s offense, his apparent failure to accept responsibility, his failure to complete his cooperation in – and his affirmative efforts to undermine – the prosecution of Bijan Rafiekian, and the need to promote respect for the law and adequately deter such criminal conduct, the government recommends that the court sentence the defendant within the applicable Guidelines range of 0 to 6 months of incarceration.

The government lays out two ways Flynn undermined the Bijan Kian prosecution

Flynn’s reversal on the Kian case is important because — according to the cooperation addendum submitted in 2018 — that’s the one investigation in which he provided “substantial cooperation.

Notably, only the assistance he had provided in the Rafiekian case was deemed “substantial.”

Over the last six months, Flynn has negated all that cooperation.

In light of the complete record, including actions subsequent to December 18, 2018, that negate the benefits of much of the defendant’s earlier cooperation, the government no longer deems the defendant’s assistance “substantial.”

The government substantiates that Flynn changed his testimony by including Kian trial exhibits, Flynn’s grand jury testimony, a Flynn 302, two Rob Kelner 302s (two), and the 302 from another of the lawyers who helped submit his FARA filing. After having substantiated that Flynn reneged on his cooperation, the government then lays out another way Flynn undermined Kian’s prosecution — by contesting that he was Kian’s co-conspirator.

Remarkably, the defendant, through his counsel, then affirmatively intervened in the Rafiekian case and filed a memorandum opposing the government’s theory of admissibility on the grounds that the defendant was not charged or alleged as a coconspirator. See Flynn Memorandum Opposing Designation, United States v. Bijan Rafiekian, No. 18-cr-457 (E.D. Va July 8, 2019) (Doc. 270). This action was wholly inconsistent with the defendant assisting (let alone substantially assisting) or cooperating with the government in that case.12 Accordingly, while the defendant initially helped the prosecutors in EDVA bring the Rafiekian case, he ultimately hindered their prosecution of it.

The government then rebuts first one counterargument Flynn might make — that he should get credit for cooperating anyway since he waived privilege so his Covington lawyers could testify.

12 Any claim by the defendant that the Rafiekian prosecution was aided by his agreement to waive the attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine regarding his attorneys’ preparation and filing of the FARA documents would be unfounded. The defendant explicitly did not waive any privileges or protections with respect to the preparation and filing of the FARA documents. No waiver occurred because the government (and the defendant’s attorneys) did not believe a waiver for such information was necessary—information provided to a lawyer for the purposes of a public filing is not privileged. The district judge in Rafiekian agreed with that conclusion, and permitted the defendant’s attorneys to testify about what the defendant and Rafiekian told them because those statements were not privileged or protected as opinion work product. See United States v. Rafiekian, No. 18-cr-457, 2019 WL 3021769, at *2, 17-19 (E.D. Va. July 9, 2019).

And they obliquely rebut an argument that Powell has already made — that EDVA prosecutors chose not to call Flynn only to retaliate against him.

13 The government does not believe it is prudent or necessary to relitigate before this Court every factual dispute between the defendant and the Rafiekian prosecutors. The above explanation of the decision not to call the defendant as a witness in the Rafiekian trial is provided as background for the Court to understand the basis for the government’s decision to exercise its discretion to determine that the defendant has not provided substantial assistance to the government. The government is not asking this Court to make factual determinations concerning the defendant’s interactions with the Rafiekian prosecutors, other than the undisputed fact that the defendant affirmatively litigated against the admission of evidence by the government in that case.

Finally, they quote a Kian filing saying for them what they therefore don’t have to say in such an inflammatory way: Flynn tried to game the Kian prosecution in such a way that he got to benefit from the plea deal without admitting his guilt.

Rafiekian’s counsel characterized the “new Flynn version of events” as “an unbelievable explanation, intended to make Flynn look less culpable than his signed December 1, 2017 Statement of Offense and consistent with his position at his sentencing hearing. In short, Flynn wants to benefit off his plea agreement without actually being guilty of anything.” See Defendant’s Memorandum Regarding Correction at 5, United States v. Bijan Rafiekian, No. 18- cr-457 (E.D. Va. July 5, 2019) (Doc. 262).

The government asks Judge Sullivan to allocute Flynn again

Which may be why the government twice asks Judge Sullivan to force Flynn to admit his guilt again if he wants credit for it in sentencing.

Indeed, the government has reason to believe, through representations by the defendant’s counsel, that the defendant has retreated from his acceptance of responsibility in this case regarding his lies to the FBI. For that reason, the government asks this Court to inquire of the defendant as to whether he maintains those apparent statements of innocence or whether he disavows them and fully accepts responsibility for his criminal conduct.

[snip]

Based on statements made in recent defense filings, the defendant has not accepted responsibility for his criminal conduct, and therefore is not entitled to any such credit unless he clearly and credibly disavows those statements in a colloquy with the Court.

The government lays out evidence of Flynn’s perjury before Emmet Sullivan

But there may be another reason the government invites Sullivan to allocute Flynn again. In an extended passage, the government basically lays out evidence that — given his statements made in the last six months — Flynn perjured himself before Judge Sullivan on December 18, 2018, when the judge had the prescience to put Flynn under oath.

During the hearing, the Court engaged in a dialogue with the defendant concerning arguments in his sentencing memorandum that appeared to challenge the circumstances of the January 24 interview. See 12/18/2018 Hearing Tr. at 6-7. However, when questioned by the Court, the defendant declined to challenge the circumstances of that interview. Id. at 8. When pressed by the Court about whether he wanted to proceed with his guilty plea “[b]ecause you are guilty of this offense,” the defendant unequivocally responded, “Yes, Your Honor.” Id. at 16. And when the Court asked whether he was “continuing to accept responsibility for [his] false statements,” the defendant replied, “I am, Your Honor.” Id. at 10. The defendant’s recent conduct and statements dramatically differ from those representations to the Court, which he made under oath.

Six months later, in June 2019, the defendant began retracting those admissions and denying responsibility for his criminal conduct. Far from accepting the consequences of his unlawful actions, he has sought to blame almost every other person and entity involved in his case, including his former counsel. Most blatantly, the defendant now professes his innocence. See, e.g., Reply in Support of His Motion to Compel Production of Brady Material and to Hold the Prosecutors in Contempt at 2, 6, United States v. Flynn, 17-cr-232 (D.D.C. Oct. 22, 2019) (Doc. 129-2) (“Reply”) (“When the Director of the FBI, and a group of his close associates, plot to set up an innocent man and create a crime . . . ;” alleging that text messages provided by the government “go to the core of Mr. Flynn’s . . . innocence”). With respect to his false statements to the FBI, he now asserts that he “was honest with the agents [on January 24, 2017] to the best of his recollection at the time.” Reply at 23. Such a claim is far from accepting responsibility for his actions. As the defendant admitted in his plea agreement and before this Court, during the January 24 interview the defendant knew he was lying to the FBI, just as he knew he was lying to the Vice President of the United States.

The defendant has also chosen to reverse course and challenge the elements and circumstances of his false statements to the FBI. See, e.g., June 6, 2019 Sidney Powell Letter to the Attorney General (Doc. 122-2) (“Powell Letter to AG”). The defendant now claims that his false statements were not material, see Reply at 27-28, and that the FBI conducted an “ambush interview” to trap him into making false statements, see Reply at 1. The Circuit Court recently stated in United States v. Leyva, 916 F.3d 14 (D.C. Cir. 2019), cert. denied, No. 19-5796, 2019 WL 5150737 (U.S. Oct. 15, 2019), that “[i]t is not error for a district court to ‘require an acceptance of responsibility that extended beyond the narrow elements of the offense’ to ‘all of the circumstances’ surrounding the defendant’s offense.” Id. at 28 (citing United States v. Taylor, 937 F.2d 676, 680-81 (D.C. Cir. 1991)). A defendant cannot “accept responsibility for his conduct and simultaneously contest the sufficiency of the evidence that he engaged in that conduct.” Id. at 29. Any notion of the defendant “clearly” accepted responsibility is further undermined by the defendant’s efforts over the last four months to have the Court dismiss the case. See Reply at 32.7

This effectively lays out a catch-22 for Flynn: either he makes a bid, still, for the acceptance of responsibility he has reneged on, or Sidney Powell instead argues that he perjured himself. One way or another (or in both cases) Flynn lied. Repeatedly.

Notably, the government introduces its discussion of why Flynn’s past lies — which were false statements, not formally perjury — were so important using a SCOTUS discussion of perjury, something they didn’t do in his prior sentencing memo.

That is precisely why providing false statements to the government is a crime. As the Supreme Court has noted:

In this constitutional process of securing a witness’ testimony, perjury simply has no place whatsoever. Perjured testimony is an obvious and flagrant affront to the basic concepts of judicial proceedings. Effective restraints against this type of egregious offense are therefore imperative. The power of subpoena, broad as it is, and the power of contempt for refusing to answer, drastic as that is — and even the solemnity of the oath — cannot insure truthful answers. Hence, Congress has made the giving of false answers a criminal act punishable by severe penalties; in no other way can criminal conduct be flushed into the open where the law can deal with it.

Sidney Powell may be too rash to notice this (as she has missed or not given a shit about other similar warnings in the past). But the government is laying out a case to go after Flynn for perjury if he decides to get cute again.

The government recalls Judge Sullivan’s past disgust with Flynn

Having laid out two reasons why the outcome should be significantly different this time around than the outcome the government argued for in December 2018, they then remind Judge Sullivan how pissed off he was at that hearing (where he asked whether treason had been considered for Flynn), where it seemed clear he was already ready to send Flynn to prison.

The government reminds Judge Sullivan that he himself decided to let Flynn’s “cooperation” play out to see the true nature of it.

At the initial sentencing hearing in December 2018, the Court raised concerns about proceeding to sentencing without “fully understanding the true extent and nature” of the defendant’s assistance.

[snip]

Although the government noted that “some of th[e] benefit” of the defendant’s assistance “may not be fully realized at th[at] time,” it proceeded to sentencing because it believed the defendant’s anticipated testimony in the Rafiekian case had been secured through his grand jury testimony and the Statement of Offense.8 The Court, however, expressed that “courts are reluctant to proceed to sentencing unless and until cooperation has been completed . . . [b]ecause the Court wants to be in a position to fully evaluate someone’s efforts to assist the government.” 12/18/2018 Hearing Tr. at 26. The Court’s concern that the parties had prematurely proceeded to sentencing was prescient.

It then reminds Judge Sullivan that he asked — and the government affirmed — that Flynn could have been charged in a conspiracy to act as an Agent of Turkey, one of the things that Sullivan found so disgusting in the last sentencing hearing.

The Court inquired whether the defendant could have been charged as a co-defendant in the Rafiekian case, and the government affirmed that the defendant could have been charged with various offenses in connection with his false statements in his FARA filings, consistent with his Statement of Offense.

The government next reminds Sullivan that Flynn’s actions were an abuse of public trust, another of the things that really pissed him off in the last sentencing hearing.

Public office is a public trust. The defendant made multiple, material and false statements and omissions, to several DOJ entities, while serving as the President’s National Security Advisor and a senior member of the Presidential Transition Team. As the government represented to the Court at the initial sentencing hearing, the defendant’s offense was serious. See Gov’t Sent’g Mem. at 2; 12/18/2018 Hearing Tr. at 32 (the Court explaining that “[t]his crime is very serious”).

The government returns to those themes to argue — factually but aggressively — that Flynn compromised national security.

The defendant’s conduct was more than just a series of lies; it was an abuse of trust. During the defendant’s pattern of criminal conduct, he was the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General. He held a security clearance with access to the government’s most sensitive information. The only reason the Russian Ambassador contacted the defendant about the sanctions is because the defendant was the incoming National Security Advisor, and thus would soon wield influence and control over the United States’ foreign policy. That is the same reason the defendant’s fledgling company was paid over $500,000 to work on issues for Turkey. The defendant monetized his power and influence over our government, and lied to mask it. When the FBI and DOJ needed information that only the defendant could provide, because of that power and influence, he denied them that information. And so an official tasked with protecting our national security, instead compromised it. [my emphasis]

Having laid out the reasons why Sullivan was ready to send Flynn to prison before he started all the Sidney Powell shenanigans, the government then repeats his past judgment that this is a unique case, and Flynn’s case is worse than all the directly relevant precedents, Papadopoulos, van der Zwaan, and, since the last sentencing hearing, Wolfe and Gates, who were sentenced to a range between two weeks and two months.

It goes without saying that this case is unique. See 12/18/2018 Hearing Tr. at 43 (Court noting that “[t]his case is in a category by itself”). Few courts have sentenced a high-ranking government official and former military general for making false statements. And the government is not aware of any case where such a high-ranking official failed to accept responsibility for his conduct, continued to lie to the government, and took steps to impair a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, while Section 3553(a)(6) requires the court to consider “the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct,” there are no similarly situated defendants.

Although other persons investigated by the SCO pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and were sentenced to varying terms of incarceration, those individuals and their conduct are easily distinguishable. See id. at 42-43 (“The Court’s of the opinion that those two cases aren’t really analogous to this case. I mean, neither one of those individuals was a high-ranking government official who committed a crime while on the premises of and in the West Wing of the White House.”). Alex van der Zwaan lied to the SCO, pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001, and was sentenced to 30 days incarceration and a fine of $20,000. See United States v. van der Zwaan, No. 18-cr-31 (ABJ). George Papadopoulos likewise lied to the SCO, pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001, and was sentenced to serve 14 days incarceration, to perform 200 hours of community service, and pay a fine of $9,500. See United States v. Papadopoulos, No. 17-cr-182 (RDM). Neither defendant was a high-ranking government official, held a position of trust vis-à-vis the United States, held a security clearance, had a special understanding of the impact of providing misleading information to investigators, or denied responsibility for his unlawful conduct.

[snip]

The Court granted the government’s motion for a significant downward departure pursuant to Section 5K1.1 for providing substantial assistance, gave Gates credit for accepting responsibility, and still sentenced him to 45 days of confinement.

Effectively, then, the government uses Sullivan’s own past judgments, giving him all the reasons he would need to sentence Flynn, at least, near the top of guidelines range six months.

Subtly, the government twice invokes “aggravating factors” (once citing the Wolfe case, which I predicted would happen).

The defendant’s offense is serious, his characteristics and history present aggravating circumstances, and a sentence reflecting those factors is necessary to deter future criminal conduct.

[snip]

The court concluded that Wolfe’s position—which was far less significant than the defendant’s position as National Security Advisor—was an aggravating factor to consider at sentencing, and one that distinguished his case from those of Papadopoulos and van der Zwaan. Moreover, in that case, the defendant received credit for accepting responsibility.

The government doesn’t ask Sullivan to go beyond a guidelines sentence of six months (though even six months would be almost unheard of), though the comparison to Wolfe makes it clear they think Flynn should serve more than two months in prison. But they give him all the ammunition he’d need if he wanted to go there on his own.

Ultimately, as the government notes, the guidelines range is the same. But the facts of the case are now very different.