Michael Flynn, former national security advisor for President Donald Trump, claims in a new legal filing that he is innocent as he seeks to undo his guilty plea for making false statements to the FBI about his talks with Russia's ambassador to the United States in the weeks before Trump's inauguration.
"In truth, I never lied," Flynn said in the document, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Later Wednesday, federal prosecutors said in their own filing that they do not object to Flynn receiving a sentence of probation, with no jail time, if Judge Emmet Sullivan rejects his pending request to withdraw his guilty plea.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said it agrees that a sentence of between zero and six months in jail "is appropriate and warranted in this case, agrees with the defendant that a sentence of probation is appropriate and does not oppose the imposition of a sentence of probation."
The filings came two weeks after Flynn formally petitioned Sullivan to withdraw his guilty plea. Prosecutors are opposing that request.
Flynn in his filing claimed that "I never would have pled guilty" if his first set of lawyers had told him that FBI agents wrote that he had a "sure demeanor" and "did not give any indication of deception" in a report they prepared after questioning him about the nature of his conversations with then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Instead, Flynn said that "I tried to 'accept responsibility' by admitting to offenses I understood the government I love and trusted said I committed."
And he claimed that at the moment he does not recall whether he discussed sanctions on Russia with Kislyak, as the FBI has alleged.
However, Flynn has previously affirmed at two court hearings that he had falsely told FBI agents in January 2017 that he did not ask Kislyak to refrain from escalating sanctions in response to the imposition of sanctions against Russia by the Obama administration.
"I am innocent of this crime, and I request to withdraw my guilty plea," he wrote in the filing Wednesday.
It is not clear whether Flynn's statements in the filing will be enough to convince Sullivan that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
Lawyers unconnected to the case say that Flynn, who is still tentatively scheduled to be sentenced next month, faces very long odds in getting Sullivan to undo the plea.
Flynn was asked to resign by Trump after less than a month on the job because he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about what was said in the conversation with the Russian ambassador.
The retired Army lieutenant general then pleaded guilty in December 2017 to making false statements to the FBI.
He originally was supposed to be sentenced during a hearing in December 2018, where Sullivan had him reiterate his guilty plea.
But Flynn agreed to postpone receiving his sentence after it became clear that Sullivan might send him to jail despite a recommendation at the time by prosecutors that he get a sentence as light as simply probation.
Sullivan said a delay would give Flynn time to complete his cooperation with investigators for then-special counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and related issues.
Flynn had been lauded for his help in those investigations by Mueller's team.
But his relationship with prosecutors soured months after the aborted plea hearing when he hired a new lawyer, Sidney Powell, who has been critical of Mueller.
Powell soon mounted an attack on prosecutors, suggesting they had withheld evidence from Flynn that could exonerate him, and that Sullivan should toss out the case.
Powell two weeks ago asked Sullivan to allow Flynn to withdraw his guilty plea.
Flynn in his filing Wednesday said it was a mistake to confirm his guilty plea before Sullivan in his first sentencing hearing in 2018.
"Regretfully, I followed my lawyers' strong advice to confirm my plea even though it was all I could do to not cry out 'no' when this Court asked me if I was guilty," Flynn wrote.