A federal judge on Feb. 10 indefinitely postponed the date for sentencing President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, as prosecutors asked the court to give them access to communications with his former lawyers.
Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order on Monday to cancel the sentencing hearing—which had been scheduled for Feb. 27—came weeks after Flynn asked the court to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States in the weeks before Trump took office, but has since argued that prosecutors violated his rights and duped him into a plea agreement.
The charge stemmed from a Jan. 24, 2017, interview he gave to two FBI agents: Peter Strzok, former FBI deputy assistant director for counterintelligence operations, and Supervisory Special Agent Joe Pientka.
In his statement of offense, Flynn also admitted to lying on foreign lobbying paperwork for his now-defunct consultancy, Flynn Intel Group. He wasn’t charged for this.
Sullivan did not schedule a new hearing, but delayed the sentencing date “until further order of the court.” He said it will allow both parties to prepare arguments in response to Flynn’s recent accusations that his former lawyers at the law firm of Covington & Burling gave him bad advice, violating his constitutional rights.
Prosecutors in a Feb. 9 court filing (pdf) argued that they should be granted access to Flynn’s communications with his former lawyers, suggesting they are interested in information that could help them level additional charges against him.
Communications with lawyers are normally protected by attorney-client privilege. The prosecutors argued, however, that Flynn gave up that privilege when he accused the lawyers of giving him bad advice.
“When a defendant claims that his conviction should be vacated or his sentence reduced because his counsel’s professional performance was so deficient that it violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, it follows that the defendant must have waived his attorney-client privilege in that case,” the prosecutors said, arguing that Flynn’s former attorneys should testify.
Sullivan on Monday ordered both sides to discuss the terms of Flynn’s waiver of attorney-client privilege, giving them a deadline of Feb. 24 to reach an agreement on “the authorization of disclosure of information with respect to Mr. Flynn’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims,” so prosecutors could discuss details with his former lawyers.
“In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement on the waiver of attorney-client privilege and disclosure of information issues, Mr. Flynn shall file his opposition brief by no later than 12 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2020, and the government shall file its reply brief by no later than 12 p.m. on March 2, 2020,” Sullivan said Monday.
Flynn faces a maximum prison sentence of five years if sentenced on the false-statements felony charge. Prosecutors, however, have urged the judge to sentence him to a maximum six months in prison.
Petr Svab and Reuters contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described the situation of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s guilty plea. Flynn asked the court to allow him to withdraw his plea.