By Jerry Dunleavy
Michael Flynn’s lawyers on Friday claimed the Department of Justice had “affirmatively suppressed evidence” that “impugned their entire case” against Flynn while at the same time “putting excruciating pressure on him to enter his guilty plea and manipulating or controlling the press to their advantage to extort that plea.”
In a brief filed Friday at a federal court in Washington, the attorneys accused the Justice Department of “malevolent conduct,” demanded access to classified Trump-Russia information, and asked the court to hold the Justice Department’s prosecutors in contempt for concealing exculpatory information from their client.
The massive amount of material being requested could delay Flynn’s sentencing, which was expected to occur this fall, and could shed light on the FBI’s conduct of the investigation into the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Flynn’s lawyers claimed that “the government continues to deny our request for security clearances” and that “there is other information relevant to the defense that is either classified or being suppressed by the government.”
Two FBI agents, Peter Strzok and another unnamed investigator, interviewed Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017 , at the White House, and the misrepresentations Flynn allegedly made about conversations he’d had with the then-Russian ambassador during the interview led to his guilty plea for lying to investigators during special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
Flynn entered a guilty plea related to making false statements to FBI agents in 2017 regarding his talks with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and has cooperated with the government since then.
But Flynn fired the original team who cut his plea deal in June of this year and brought on new attorneys, including former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers said their client “may also have other defenses that prior counsel did not explore,” a signal that they may be attempting to wiggle out of Flynn’s guilty plea.
Flynn’s attorney demanded access to documents related to both the FBI counterintelligence probe and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. “They continued to hide that exculpatory information for months — in direct contravention of this court’s order — and they continue to suppress exculpatory information to this day,” Flynn’s lawyers said Friday.
Flynn’s lawyers made a number of bold assertions, contending he was swept up in a conspiracy involving some combination of FBI informant Stefan Halper, NSA abuses, a criminal leak campaign related to his conversations with Kislyak, or an illegal operation involving government “unmasking” of the names of Americans caught up in surveillance of foreigners by U.S. spy agencies.
Among the records demanded: Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador; the first draft of the FBI agent interview notes (known as “302s”) of the interview of Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017, plus any records showing who may have made changes to it; unredacted versions of the texts between FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page; unredacted 302s of DOJ official Bruce Ohr’s conversations with the FBI when he acted as a conduit between the bureau and British ex-spy Christopher Steele; and any information the DOJ or special counsel had on Strzok, Page, and Ohr prior to Flynn’s plea.
Flynn’s lawyers specifically focused on Flynn prosecutors Andrew Weissmann and Zainab Ahmad, claiming they were involved with Ohr at the DOJ when he worked with Steele “through his secret back-channel” after Steele was cut off by the FBI. Steele compiled his unverified dossier at the behest of the Clinton-funded opposition research firm Fusion GPS. Flynn’s lawyers alleged the second agent who interviewed Flynn with Strzok was also Ohr’s contact with the FBI and helped “pass along to the FBI the corrupted and false information from Ohr, Steele, and Fusion GPS.” Flynn’s lawyers demanded “all evidence of this circuitous and illicit operation.”
Flynn’s attorneys said it is “imperative” they be allowed to see the information underpinning the investigation into Flynn in order to “evaluate the government’s allegations.”
So Flynn’s attorneys asked the judge to order the DOJ to preserve “all evidence, emails, notes, documents, texts, cell phones — including those of the Special Counsel team” and asked the court to find the prosecutors in contempt.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is presiding over the case, on Friday set a status conference for Sept. 10 to consider these arguments.
The DOJ’s lawyers countered Friday that they “take very seriously our discovery and disclosure obligations” but emphasized the disclosure of classified national security information is governed by laws and executive orders. The DOJ argued it had already gone above and beyond what was required, claiming that “the government has exceeded its discovery and disclosure obligations in this matter.”
The DOJ’s lawyers said they’ve handed over 22,000 pages of documents to Flynn, including “all versions in the government’s possession” of the Jan. 24, 2017, FBI interview notes.
“The government has not provided any classified information to the defendant or his counsel,” the DOJ’s attorneys wrote. “And the government is not aware of any classified information that requires disclosures to the defendant or his counsel.”
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website