US President Donald Trump says he is considering a full pardon for his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about dealings with Russia’s ambassador before Mr Trump took office.
- Prosecutors had initially said Mr Flynn could avoid prison time with extensive cooperation
- Mr Flynn is one of six Trump aides and associates charged in Robert Mueller’s investigation
- In December 2017 he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia
Mr Flynn attempted to withdraw his guilty plea in January, saying federal prosecutors had acted in “bad faith” and broke their end of the bargain when they sought prison time for him.
“I am strongly considering a Full Pardon!” Mr Trump tweeted.
The President also cited an unspecified report that the Justice Department had lost records related to Mr Flynn’s case.
In response, Mr Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, tweeted, “Thank you, Mr President” and said “the persecution” of his client wa “an egregious injustice”.
Mr Flynn is one of six Trump aides and associates charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
He served just 24 days in the Republican Trump administration before he was fired in January 2017.
In December 2017 he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period, and provided extensive cooperation to Mr Mueller’s team of investigators.
But his attorneys raised repeated misconduct allegations against the Government — allegations which a judge has since rejected — and prosecutors responded by questioning whether Mr Flynn truly accepted his guilt.
Last month, US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered Mr Flynn’s sentencing hearing to be cancelled “until further order of the court”.
He gave both Mr Flynn and the Justice Department more time to submit filings on his request to withdraw his guilty plea, including claims he received ineffective legal assistance from his former lawyers.
Following Mr Flynn’s attempt to withdraw his plea, the Justice Department abruptly offered a more lenient sentencing recommendation.
The latest sentencing filing still seeks a sentence of up six months, but, unlike before, prosecutors explicitly state that probation would be a “reasonable” punishment and that they will not oppose it.
Mr Trump has not been shy about using his clemency powers in high-profile cases.
Last month he commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and pardoned former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik.
Among the others getting a break from the President were financier Michael Milken and Edward DeBartolo Jr, the former San Francisco 49ers owner.
Mr Trump has faced criticism for weighing in on the cases of former aides.
In February, Mr Trump said he had yet to think about pardoning longtime confidant Roger Stone, who was awaiting sentencing at the time, or granting clemency to Mr Flynn or former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
But he made clear he was sympathetic to their plight.
“Somebody has to stick up for the people,” Mr Trump said.
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