Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, in a sworn affidavit on Wednesday, said he does not remember details of a phone call during the Trump presidential transition in 2016 to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about Russian policy and the United States’ wishes.
“I still don’t remember if I discussed sanctions on a phone call with Ambassador Kislyak nor do I remember if we discussed details of a UN vote on Israel,” Flynn wrote. “The phone calls with Kislyak are still events of which I do not have a clear memory and it related to a general category of information (phone calls about foreign policy) that are both sensitive and classified.”
The affidavit, an extraordinary move at this stage taken by a criminal defendant who’s already admitted his guilt under oath twice, came among a bundle of court filings Wednesday that aim to back up Flynn’s recent request to retract his guilty plea. In the hundreds of pages of their legal analysis, retelling of Flynn’s plea discussions and exhibits, Flynn’s legal defense team attempts to avoid his upcoming sentencing and convince the judge he was wronged by the Mueller investigation.
Flynn’s new discussion of what happened is a revisionist take on one of the most significant episodes of 2016 – a moment that contributed to a chain of events that’s since defined the Trump presidency.
Previously, Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI and executive branch officials in the early days of the Trump administration about what was said in his calls with Kislyak. He resigned from the administration less than a month into the job, after officials privately expressed fears the Russians could exploit his lies. Flynn pleaded guilty to one criminal count of lying in December 2017, then became a pivotal witness in the Mueller investigation, especially regarding President Donald Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation that, at times, had centered on Flynn.
Flynn’s sentencing is on the calendar for late February. Judge Emmet Sullivan in the federal District Court in DC is set to decide whether Flynn can withdraw his guilty plea before then.
Flynn’s wife, Lori Andrade Flynn, also signed her own affidavit attesting that he is innocent. She mentions his “imprecise memories” of 2016.
The Flynn filings adds to his months-long effort to smear the decisions of prosecutors in the Mueller investigation.
On Wednesday, Flynn’s lawyers wrote to the judge about how they believed investigators engaged in “egregious government misconduct” and about how his prior legal team, who cut his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, pressured him into his plea deal out of an interest to protect themselves.
Flynn wrote in his affidavit he “wouldn’t have signed the plea agreement” if he knew two years ago that FBI agents had noted he didn’t show signs of lying when he lied to them in January 2017 in the White House.
“Regretfully, I followed my lawyers’ strong advice to confirm my plea even though it was all I could do to not cry out ‘no’ when this court asked me if I was guilty,” Flynn said about his court appearances following his plea deal. “I have spent my entire adult life accepting great responsibility. I accepted the plea agreement to stop the pain and threats to my family and to accept responsibility for what the government I have defended and served for more than thirty-three years said I did wrong.”
Flynn noted he especially sought to keep prosecutors from charging his son with a crime, and sold his home in Alexandria, Virginia, to help pay his millions of dollars in legal fees. His son, also named Michael Flynn, was never charged, though a former lobbying partner of theirs faced trial last summer and was acquitted by a judge because of lack of evidence. Flynn did not testify at that trial.
Sullivan previously rejected an attempt by Flynn to hold prosecutors in contempt.
His former defense law firm, Covington & Burling, which Flynn dropped last summer, declined to comment directly on the accusations Flynn made of them on Wednesday. “Under the bar rules, we are limited in our ability to respond publicly even to allegations of this nature, absent the client’s consent or a court order,” a firm spokesman said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday wrote that they still believe Flynn deserves between zero to six months in prison for his crime.
A year ago, before Flynn’s latest in-court attempts, prosecutors asked Sullivan for him to get as little as no jail time, meaning they agreed with him avoiding a prison sentence.
Sullivan didn’t sentence him at that time, at Flynn’s request.
Though prosecutors came down harder on Flynn in recent filings after he changed his willingness to admit his guilt, they offered somewhat of an olive branch on Wednesday, telling Sullivan to compare Flynn’s sentence possibilities to those of top government officials, including David Petraeus, who avoided jail time after pleading guilty to unauthorized handling of classified information.
It’s still unknown how Sullivan will react to the flurry of new filings and to Flynn’s request to retract his guilty plea.
The judge has already voiced his disgust of Petraeus receiving no jail time for lying about disclosing classified information, during Flynn’s aborted sentencing hearing a year ago.
“I don’t agree with the Petraeus sentence. I’m sorry. I don’t see how a four-star general gives classified information to someone not authorized to receive it and then is allowed to plead to a misdemeanor,” Sullivan said as Flynn stood before him last December.
Those comments from the judge, along with others, prompted Flynn to ask for a delay for his sentencing so he could help prosecutors more, which he did not do.