Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has hired a new lawyer, a former federal prosecutor who has earned the praise of President Donald Trump and repeatedly denigrated the Russia investigation.
Trump took notice of Flynn's new legal representation, calling Sidney Powell a "GREAT LAWYER" and wishing luck to them both on Twitter. Powell responded, "Thank you Mr. President!!" and "I'm honored."
The change in lawyers, especially to one with a publicly combative stance toward special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, may herald a shift in Flynn's legal strategy in the final stages of his case. And Trump's words of support for Flynn and his new attorney reflect the president's continued interest in, and occasional sympathy for, some of his former aides entangled in the investigation.
Flynn became a key cooperator for Mueller after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations during the presidential transition period with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
He was supposed to have been sentenced in December, but the hearing was abruptly cut short after Flynn asked to postpone it so that he could continue cooperating with the Justice Department and earn additional credit toward a reduced sentence.
Powell has been an outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation. On Twitter, she advertises a T-shirt with cartoonish images of Mueller and his team bearing the slogan "Creeps on a Mission." She is also the author of a book titled "Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice."
She confirmed in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday that she was Flynn's new lawyer. Asked about a subpoena for his records and testimony announced Thursday by the House intelligence committee, Powell said, "The General is continuing to cooperate with the government" but otherwise declined to comment.
Mueller's investigation ended in March with a report that found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to tip the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Trump's favor. But it did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had obstructed justice.
It is not clear how much additional legal work is required for Flynn as he awaits sentencing. In a recent court filing, Flynn's former lawyers, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony, revealed that they had been fired but they did not say why.
At Flynn's December hearing, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan declared himself disgusted by Flynn and raised the question of whether his actions amounted to treason. He later backpedaled and said he didn't mean to suggest that they did.
Powell told AP in February that she was sitting with members of the Flynn family on the day of that hearing.
"I was absolutely stunned," Powell told AP. "The first thing that stunned me was that the judge had the facts all wrong. Here we are in a high-profile case like this involving false statements, and Judge Sullivan comes out with false information and a complete misunderstanding of the facts of the case, and he had the chance to prepare for it. I was flabbergasted."
Trump has long taken a keen interest in Flynn's case, wishing him luck on the morning of his sentencing last December. Trump's former attorney John Dowd left Kelner a phone message last year in which he asked for a heads-up if Flynn had incriminating information about Trump that he planned to share with prosecutors.
Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island.