The Justice Department said Wednesday that it would not oppose probation for former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn — a more lenient stance than prosecutors took earlier this month, when they said he deserved prison time.
The latest sentencing filing still seeks a sentence of up six months, but unlike before, prosecutors explicitly state that probation would be a “reasonable” punishment and that they would not oppose it.
It was not clear why the Justice Department appeared to soften its position, though prosecutors did suggest Flynn deserves credit for his decades-long military service.
“There is no dispute that the defendant has an unusually strong record of public service,” prosecutors wrote.
As part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential transition period. He cooperated extensively, leading prosecutors to initially support a sentence of probation.
He was to have been sentenced the following year, but after he was sharply rebuked by the judge during the sentencing hearing, he abruptly asked that it be postponed so that he could continue cooperating with the government in hopes of getting additional credit for his behavior and avoiding any prison time.
Since then, though, he has fired his lawyers and replaced them with new ones who have taken a sharply adversarial approach toward the prosecution. They have raised allegations of government misconduct that a judge has rejected. Earlier this month, they asked to withdraw his guilty plea — a request that is still pending.
Prosecutors are expected to more fully respond to that request soon.
The Justice Department says that though Flynn did provide assistance to their investigation and that a judge may consider that in fashioning a sentence, any claims of acceptance of responsibility are hard to reconcile with his request to withdraw his guilty plea.
They also opted not to call him in the trial last year of a business associate after they said he had changed his account.
He’s due to be sentenced Feb. 27.