- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
- Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, fired his defense lawyers and hired new counsel, according to a new court filing.
- The defense lawyers, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony, were instrumental in securing a plea deal for him with Robert Mueller, the special counsel who led the Russia investigation.
- It’s unclear what prompted Flynn’s decision to dismiss his attorneys so close to his sentencing, but the move could signal a shift in his legal strategy as many of his family members and allies push him to take a more combative stance in the Russia investigation.
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Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, has fired the defense lawyers representing him in the FBI’s Russia investigation, according to new court documents filed this week.
Flynn was being represented by Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony at the white-collar law firm Covington & Burling LLP.
The two lawyers on Thursday submitted a motion to withdraw as Flynn’s counsel and said Flynn had notified them that “he is terminating Covington & Burling LLP as his counsel and has already retained new counsel for this matter.”
Kelner and Anthony declined to comment on the development.
It’s unclear who Flynn’s new attorneys are, but his decision to switch lawyers so close to his sentencing could signal a shift in his legal strategy as many of his family members and allies push him to take a more combative stance against the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to the FBI about his conversations the year before with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the US. Flynn has been cooperating with the FBI since then, and prosecutors said in a sentencing memo last year that he had been substantially helpful in the Russia investigation, as well as several other ongoing inquiries at the Justice Department.
Last month, it also surfaced that Flynn provided information to prosecutors about actions by President Donald Trump’s lawyers and someone tied to Congress that may have affected Flynn’s “willingness to cooperate” with the Russia investigation.
Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak are broadly outlined in a redacted version of the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel who led the investigation, that was released to the public in April. While the full transcript of their calls is under seal, and a federal judge last month ordered Mueller’s team to release it – as well as the full, unredacted Mueller report – to the public.
Last week, prosecutors refused to release the transcripts, arguing that they were “not relying on any other recordings, of any person, for purposes of establishing the defendant’s guilt or determining his sentencing, nor are there any other recordings that are part of the sentencing record.”
On Wednesday, US District Judge Emmet Sullivan backed off from demanding the transcripts be released.
Flynn is awaiting sentencing, and the next status report from his new lawyers and Justice Department lawyers is due on June 14.
Flynn was originally going to be sentenced in December, but the date was postponed after his lawyers said Flynn could cooperate further, and after Sullivan accused the former national security adviser and retired general of selling out his country and raised the prospect of treason. The judge later walked back his statements and said he was merely asking about treason, not implying that Flynn committed it.