Michael Flynn's defense attorney told a judge Tuesday that she spoke about his criminal case in a meeting with President Donald Trump, who was extremely critical of his former national security adviser's prosecution.
Sidney Powell, Flynn's attorney, told Judge Emmet Sullivan that during the interview, she asked Trump not to grant Flynn a pardon while she continued her battle to get the judge to dismiss the judge's highly unusual motion to dismiss the case admit.
Powell said during a federal court hearing in Washington, DC, she spoke to Trump and a White House attorney once in the past few weeks about the case.
"I provided the White House with an update on the overall status of the litigation," Powell said.
"I was discussing this case with the President recently when I asked him not to issue a pardon and gave him a general update on the status of the litigation," Powell said.
Flynn pleaded guilty almost three years ago to lying to FBI agents about his talks with Russia's ambassador to the United States prior to Trump's inauguration in January 2017. The case emerged from an extensive investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But Flynn has not yet been convicted of an unprecedented series of events, which included Trump's Attorney General William Barr trying to dismiss the case and who – at least for now – resisted the judge on the case, Sullivan.
The White House declined to comment on Powell's testimony.
The Justice Department's request for dismissal will be considered at Tuesday's hearing.
The department, which had defended the legitimacy of its prosecution of Flynn for more than a year, abruptly said last spring that there was no legitimate reason for the FBI to question Flynn.
Powell's announcement of the meeting with Trump came in response to a question from Sullivan, who asked if she had spoken to the president about the case.
She initially declined to answer him, arguing that the privilege of a manager would prevent her from doing so.
But Powell then provided details of what she had told Trump when Sullivan pointed out that she was not an employee of the U.S. government's executive branch.
Powell asked Sullivan later during the hearing to withdraw from the case, including on grounds that denied the judge's prior appeal against his refusal to grant Flynn an immediate release.
Sullivan seemed annoyed and waved off her request and asked her to submit it in writing to a lawsuit.
Flynn, a retired army lieutenant general, was only briefly Trump's first national security advisor.
He was fired after lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his talks with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents who questioned him about his conversations with Kislyak.
Flynn admitted falsely telling agents that he and Kislyak failed to discuss the need for Russia not to take revenge on the United States for sanctions imposed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration as punishment for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn's originally planned December 2018 conviction was abandoned after Sullivan furiously admonished him, telling Flynn that he had "probably" sold out his land, and after the judge said he was considering sending Flynn to jail for his crime.
The judge then suspended the conviction, saying he would give Flynn more time to complete his work with then Special Adviser Robert Mueller on investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with that interference by members of Trump's campaign.
Flynn worked together for a few more months but then hired a new lawyer and began laying the groundwork to reverse his admission of guilt.
The Justice Department, which had resisted its efforts to overturn the case, abruptly abandoned that position earlier this year and urged Sullivan to dismiss the case, which aroused widespread criticism from Democrats and former prosecutors.
Sullivan did not respond to this dismissal request. Instead, the judge appointed a former federal judge, Attorney John Gleeson, to present arguments against the motion that Sullivan should consider in deciding whether to dismiss the charges or convict Flynn.
Gleeson advised Sullivan not to dismiss the case, arguing that the Justice Department had committed "a gross abuse of law enforcement".
"The government has acted very irregularly to aid a political ally of the president," wrote Gleeson.
Flynn and the Justice Department then appealed and asked a three-judge appellate body to force the case to be dismissed on the grounds that Sullivan had exceeded his authority.
This panel agreed and ordered the dismissal.
But Sullivan then appealed the dismissal.
Earlier this month, a jury of most of the District of Columbia Circuit Appeals Court judges overturned the smaller jury's order and returned the case to Sullivan for review.
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