“He is going to continue to cooperate with the government, pursuant to his plea agreement,” said Powell today in an interview with The Hill about her new client after the news broke. But why would Flynn hire Sidney Powell if he intends to keep cooperating? She’s been harshly anti-Mueller for months and a critic of former Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann for years, having written an entire book about her experience opposing him in the Enron case. (Powell herself describes Weissmann as the book’s “lead villain.”) She created a website awhile back about Team Mueller called “Creeps on a Mission” in which she accused them of angling “to destabilize and destroy this President” before Mueller ultimately declined to accuse Trump of either conspiracy or obstruction. Both her book and a t-shirt are available for sale at the site.
As for Flynn, for more than a year she’s been saying the same thing: He got railroaded and should withdraw his guilty plea. She wrote an op-ed about it for the Daily Caller in February 2018 and has reiterated her argument on Twitter sporadically since then. This is not someone whom you retain after firing your counsel from Covington & Burling if all you want to do is play out the string on cooperating with the special counsel, in other words. This is someone whom you hire if you want to fight with Mueller’s office, or what’s left of it.
Unless, I suppose, Flynn is now so broke from the legal expenses he’s incurred that he can’t afford C&B anymore and Powell was willing to work cheaply or even for free, possibly expecting that there are ways she’ll be able to monetize her representation of Flynn among righty populists after this is over. That’s pure speculation, but if you’re looking for an explanation here other than “he did this because he’s going to withdraw his plea,” that would be an obvious one.
She’s pushed a conspiracy theory that “Mueller may have been kept informed during the Clinton email investigation” and that the former special counsel “may be the ‘insurance policy’ [former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] refer to in the event Trump was elected.”
On her website, Powell also wrote that she expects former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who spoke with Trump dossier author Christopher Steele when the Russia investigation began in 2016, “to be in the cross-hairs of a criminal investigation”—but did not specify why.
Powell has spent much of her time on social media tweeting hashtag-filled links to her book at prominent conservative pundits and Russia investigation skeptics, as well as Flynn and his son Michael Flynn Jr.
It makes no sense to me that Flynn would want to tear up his guilty plea now, after he’s worked so hard to earn leniency by cooperating, and risk a much stiffer sentence unless he already knows that Trump intends to pardon him. Remember, Mueller’s office recommended a sentence of zero to six months initially for Flynn in recognition of how much he helped them. Judge Emmet Sullivan seemed to want to go harder on him last year, though, suggesting that he’d end up with jail time if the sentencing proceeded, so instead the sentencing was postponed and Flynn went right back to cooperating. He’s set to testify for the government at the trial of his former lobbyist partner this summer, something that should earn him further brownie points with the judge. That is to say, everything Flynn has done to this point has been aimed at avoiding any time in prison — and he just might achieve his goal. If his testimony helps put his former partner away, maybe Sullivan will cut him a break after all.
Except now, at the eleventh hour, with Powell as counsel, that strategy seems in doubt. If Flynn withdraws his plea, contests the charges against him, and loses, he’d be looking at years behind bars — unless he has reason to believe that Trump will pardon him. In that case, contesting the charges against him is a risk-free exercise for him. If he fights the DOJ and wins, he walks free and he’s a hero to righty populists who resented seeing him prosecuted in the first place. If he fights the charges and loses, hey, at least he fought, right? And he’ll walk free anyway thanks to his friend, the president. The wrinkle is that if the White House made some sort of private guarantee to Flynn that he’ll be pardoned if he ends his cooperation with the government, that might be the final straw for House Democrats on impeachment and obstruction.
Although, given the weird politics of impeachment, with Trump often seeming like he wants it to happen and Pelosi very much reluctant, maybe that’s extra incentive for POTUS to issue the pardon. So much so, perhaps, that Flynn doesn’t need a formal guarantee that a pardon is in the offing. Between hiring a figure like Powell and choosing to fight the DOJ, Flynn might be calculating that the pardon is coming no matter what. He’d be taking a biiiiiiig risk in counting on it, knowing that he might end up in prison if it doesn’t happen, but it’d be a calculated risk.
Here’s Powell being interviewed by Mark Levin about Weissmann and Mueller back in January.