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Federal prosecutors say probation "reasonable" punishment for Michael Flynn

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Federal prosecutors appear to be softening their position on a punishment for Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security adviser, telling a federal court Wednesday they agree with Flynn that a sentence of probation is "reasonable" for him.

In a sentencing filing with the federal district court in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department said that while it believes a sentence of up to six months in prison is "appropriate and warranted" in Flynn's case, it would not oppose probation.

In their filing, Justice Department attorneys noted that Flynn provided assistance to special counsel Robert Mueller's office on a host of issues across 20 interviews and said his "lengthy military service to the United States is an important mitigating factor for the court to consider."

"There is no dispute that the defendant has an unusually strong record of public service," they wrote.

Federal prosecutors cited cases involving high-ranking government officials, including former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and General David Petraeus, who received probationary sentences. Berger pleaded guilty to removing classified materials from the National Archives in 2005, while Petraeus pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information in 2015.

"Here, the court should consider these and other arguably analogous cases, along with all of the other relevant facts in this case, in fashioning a sentence," the Justice Department wrote.

He is scheduled to be sentenced February 27.

The shift from prosecutors comes after Flynn asked a federal judge earlier this month to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea, more than a year after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States after the 2016 presidential election. 

In a motion filed January 14, Flynn's attorneys said he wanted to withdraw his plea "because of the government's bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement" and accused federal prosecutors of refusing to "comply with … their constitutional, legal and ethical obligations."

Prosecutors requested in 2018 for Flynn to receive no jail time but then did an about-face in early January, recommending up to six months in prison because of the "serious nature of the defendant's offense, his apparent failure to accept responsibility, his failure to complete his cooperation in [the Virginia case] and the need to promote respect for the law and adequately deter such criminal conduct."

Flynn's plea deal with the special counsel's office stipulated he cooperate in the Virginia case.

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