Michael Flynn situation comes into focus with ex-lobbying partner case

(CNN)President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn "certainly" will testify against his ex-lobbying partner Bijan Kian at a trial this summer, a Virginia-based federal prosecutor said in court Thursday.

The assertion comes amid a week of turmoil for Flynn, after he fired the lawyers who advised him on foreign lobbying issues and helped him cut a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. He hired a bevy of new attorneys this week. Two came to the federal court hearing in Northern Virginia on Thursday to watch the arguments about Kian's case -- which often turned to discussion of Flynn.
Speculation has mounted this week over whether Flynn will continue to help prosecutors, given one of his new attorney's criticisms of the Mueller investigation and willingness to share conspiracies about the Justice Department.
But nothing seemed to have changed Thursday.
    There will "certainly be testimony from Flynn" at the Kian trial in July, prosecutor James Gillis said in court, making clear that Flynn is still cooperating under the plea deal he agreed to in the Mueller investigation. Previously, court filings revealed that he started helping with the Kian prosecution in mid-2018, which helped to earn him a glowing sentencing recommendation for little to no jail time from Mueller's team.
    Flynn asked to delay his sentencing before a federal judge in Washington last December after the judge still balked at his crime of lying to the FBI. Lawyers involved in the case told the court Flynn may be able to show the judge later this year how helpful he will be to the prosecutors in the case against Kian.
    Kian, an Iranian-American lobbyist who also goes by Bijan Rafiekian, was charged with conspiracy for working for Turkey to influence American politicians. He did this, allegedly, while he and Flynn co-owned the Flynn Intel Group and relied on the company for financial transfers in the scheme. He pleaded not guilty, and the trial is set for July.
    Another conspirator, Kamil Alptekin, who also uses the first name Ekim and lives in Turkey, was charged and has not entered a plea in federal court. He too had attorneys at the hearing on Thursday.
    Flynn was not charged in the case, but admitted to making false statements on federal lobbying disclosures about the work for Turkey.

    Flynn's old team

    The hearing Thursday also shed some light on why Flynn's relationship with his lawyers from the Washington law firm Covington & Burling went south last week.
    After representing Flynn for years on lobbying matters as well as his criminal case, the firm announced in court he had fired them.
    Kian's attorneys said Thursday that Covington mistepped by continuing to advise both Flynn and his lobbying group after December 1, 2017, when Flynn pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation and agreed to cooperate with that and other investigations, like the one into Kian. The firm should have ended its representation of the Flynn Intel Group then, instead of helping both Flynn and the company determine when they could share information with prosecutors.
    Kian's attorney Mark MacDougall called it a "textbook conflict of interest" when Covington continued to represent both Flynn and the lobbying group. The firm shouldn't have been able to counsel Flynn on sharing details about Covington's work for the Flynn Intel Group with prosecutors, MacDougall said.
    At least one attorney from Covington may be called to testify at the Kian trial, if the judge allows it, a prosecutor said Thursday.
    Covington has declined to comment on the situation and the firm's representation of Flynn. Prosecutors say the firm lawyers did nothing wrong.
    It's likely that Kian's team could try to attack both the law firm's work and undermine Flynn's credibility before the jury.

    Flynn's new team

    With him still poised to be in the hot seat at trial next month, five different lawyers are now working with Flynn, according to a court filing Thursday morning.
    The group includes lawyers with experience in many different courtroom contexts and from across the political spectrum. One is the oldest known modern Supreme Court law clerk, W. William Hodes, a former law professor and legal ethicist who worked under Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 1990s.
    There's also conservative-leaning commentator and Texas-based litigator Sidney Powell, whom the President tweeted his support for Thursday morning. A frequent Fox News guest, she has spread conspiracy theories about Flynn's guilty plea, pushed to raise money for his legal defense and retweeted social media posts lobbying the President for a pardon.
    Flynn has also enlisted three attorneys from the Alexandria, Virginia,-based law firm Harvey & Binnall -- Jesse Binnall, Paris Sorrell and Philip Harvey -- to represent him in the Kian matter. Binnall and Harvey attended the hearing and declined to comment about representing Flynn on Thursday.
    Harvey & Binnall was previously involved in a Trump supporter's efforts in a court fight over Virginia's presidential nominating process, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
      It is unclear if the full slate of lawyers are only working with Flynn for the Kian case -- a complicated, potentially fraught matter for Flynn -- or if they plan to assist him for his still-to-be-scheduled sentencing before Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington federal court, where Flynn has had a volatile case before the judge.
      An update is due to Sullivan from the legal defense team and prosecutors by tomorrow. His sentencing has not yet been rescheduled.