WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn deserves up to six months behind bars, the Justice Department said Tuesday, reversing its earlier position that he was entitled to avoid prison time because of his extensive cooperation with prosecutors.
The government’s sentencing memo is a sharp rebuke to Flynn’s new legal team, which for months has attacked special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and accused prosecutors of withholding information that they said was favorable to their client. A judge rejected those arguments last month.
Prosecutors who had initially praised Flynn’s cooperation said he had “retreated from his acceptance of responsibility” and “therefore is not entitled to any such credit unless he clearly and credibly disavows those statements.” They asked U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to impose a sentence of zero to six months.
Flynn was to have been sentenced in December 2018 for lying to the FBI about his conversations with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States, including about his request that Russia not escalate tensions with the U.S. in response to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for election interference.
But the hearing was abruptly postponed midway through it at Flynn’s request after scathing criticism from Sullivan raised the prospect that he might send him to prison, even though prosecutors hadn’t recommended it. Flynn asked that the hearing be put off so that he could continue cooperating with prosecutors in hopes of avoiding any prison time.
At the time of his December 2017 guilty plea, he was the closest Trump associate to agree to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia investigation. He met repeatedly with prosecutors over the following months as they investigated whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the 2016 election.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 28.