No explanation was given, and his lawyers — the white-shoe firm of Covington & Burling — are highly respected. People are chirping on Twitter that this looks the prelude to a pardon but that doesn’t add up to me.
Interestingly, his new counsel hasn’t been named yet. But:
Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump provocateur and who has joined forces with the Flynn family in calling for the retired Army lieutenant general’s exoneration and pardon, wrote Thursday on Twitter he was told the new Flynn lawyer is “very high profile and appears on TV regularly.” The post added to the speculation over several familiar faces from the Russia probe, including Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and the husband-wife duo of Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, informal Trump advisers who nearly joined the president’s legal team last spring.
In a text message to POLITICO, Giuliani said he was not Flynn’s new lawyer. Dershowitz replied that he’s not representing Flynn. DiGenova in an email wrote, “We are not at liberty to discuss.”
My money’s on Avenatti. One last hurrah before prison! If he does a good job, maybe Trump will pardon him too.
More seriously, explain the logic to me that Flynn is changing horses in the expectation of a pardon. Why would he need new lawyers, even lawyers as tight with TrumpWorld as Toensing and diGenova, for that? No doubt he has dozens of go-betweens he could call upon to petition the president on his behalf. And if he’s hot for a pardon, why now? He could have tried that ages ago, before he did 17 interviews with Mueller’s team. Besides, due to his cooperation, Flynn is in line for a very light sentence: Mueller’s office initially asked for zero to six months for lying to the FBI, although the judge in Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan, was critical of him and seemed disinclined to go easy on him at a hearing in December.
Maybe, with sentencing finally approaching, Flynn is nervous that Sullivan’s going to give him time and is looking for a way out. If so, he’d better have that pardon in the bag, as backing out of his cooperation deal with the DOJ would open him up to new charges related to his unregistered lobbying for Turkey. Trump might not want to pardon Flynn at this point out of annoyance at his cooperation with Mueller. Or maybe POTUS is worried, understandably, that pardoning Flynn now might bring down more obstruction-of-justice scrutiny on him. If it came out that Trump chose to pardon him because, for whatever reason, he didn’t want Flynn providing any more information to the DOJ, that might be the last straw for House Democrats on impeachment. From Trump’s point of view, if Flynn is already in line for a sweetheart deal that might land him a few months in prison at worst, why risk that obstruction heat by pardoning him?
There might be another explanation for the timing. Part of Flynn’s cooperation deal requires him to testify against his former lobbying partner, Bijan Rafiekian, at his upcoming trial this summer. Flynn might not be comfortable answering questions about their business together. And he may fear that his interests and Covington & Burling’s aren’t perfectly aligned on the matter:
The Covington lawyers, too, have been roped into that case. Previously, Rafiekian won access to legal work the law firm did for the Flynn Intel Group.
A judge continues to consider whether Covington passed along fraudulent information to the Justice Department when they handled foreign lobbying disclosures for Flynn’s former company. Prosecutors said that in that situation, that they believe the law firm hadn’t realized the statements they made to the Justice Department were false.
Taken together, it’s possible that Covington’s legal work for Flynn — and Flynn’s own crime of lying to the FBI, pleading guilty and cooperating with Mueller — could be put on full display at the upcoming trial.
Could be that Flynn is panicking at the thought of cross-examination at Rafekian’s trial and is planning to blame C&B for some of the things he’s accused of. In which case, C&B had to go as his attorneys. Just one question: In that case, why not go out and hire another white-shoe firm instead of TV-friendly lawyers like Toensing and diGenova? Does he intend to defy his cooperation agreement at Rafekian’s trial by pleading the Fifth and believes a pardon is the only way to escape from the resulting charges by the DOJ? I still don’t see why he’d need Trump-associated lawyers to swing that, but I suppose it can’t hurt. You can never have too many Trump cronies in your corner when you want something from the president.
Update: “Interesting” is putting it mildly.
The interesting move now would be for Pelosi to say she'd immediately open impeachment proceedings if Trump pardons Flynn.
— Christian Vanderbrouk (@UrbanAchievr) June 6, 2019