President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn fired his legal team as he awaited sentencing for lying to the FBI about his communications with a top Russian official, according to a court filing Thursday from his longtime lawyers.
Flynn's former attorneys, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony from the firm Covington & Burling, said in a two-page motion that Flynn had notified them that "he is terminating Covington & Burling LLP as his counsel and has already retained new counsel for this matter."
They did not offer an explanation for their abrupt termination in the filing, which was delivered to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., but said Flynn has already hired new counsel to represent him in his criminal case brought by former special counsel Robert Mueller. The lawyers did not identify who Flynn has replaced them with.
Kelner and Anthony wrote in the filing Thursday that Judge Emmet Sullivan has the power to deny their motion to withdraw as counsel, but argued their removal "would not be prejudicial to any of the parties or otherwise inconsistent with the interests of justice."
Flynn, a former U.S. Army lieutenant general, has not been sentenced and a date for his sentencing hearing has still not set. He was expected to be sentenced in December 2018, but Sullivan granted a delay so that Flynn could cooperate further with the government.
Ahead of Flynn's original sentencing date, the special counsel's office revealed that Flynn had provided investigators with "substantial assistance" in more than a dozen interviews throughout their investigation and argued that Flynn should receive little to no jail time.
Sullivan said he would take Flynn's three decades of military service into consideration when deciding his sentence, but lambasted the former national security adviser for his actions.
"Arguably, you sold your country out. The court's going to consider all that," Sullivan told Flynn at his sentence hearing last December. "But I'm not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense."
Flynn has also cooperated in the investigation of his former business partner, Bijan Kian, who has been charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Turkish government. Kian pleaded not guilty to the charges and is set to face a trial in July. Flynn is expected to testify against him.
In March, Flynn requested an another sentencing delay for lying to the FBI until after Kian's trial.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to a single count of making false statements about his communications with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office. Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, and whether the president obstructed justice.
Mueller wrapped up his investigation in March, concluding there was no proof Trump or a member of his campaign had colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. He did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had attempted to obstruct justice, but he did not exonerate him. Mueller detailed at least ten instances of possible obstruction by Trump in his report.