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Flynn urged by supporters to withdraw guilty plea, as judge’s actions raise eyebrows

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Supporters of former national security adviser Michael Flynn are floating the possibility he could withdraw his guilty plea in Robert Mueller’s investigation, as the new judge in the case makes some curious moves amid speculation over whether the special counsel “withheld” evidence. 

Legal experts caution that a defendant successfully withdrawing a guilty plea is rare and likely wouldn’t get him off the hook.

But Flynn’s siblings, who are vocal in their support for the former Trump adviser on social media, seem to be advocating that he withdraw his plea.

“Say it very loud….!” Joseph J. Flynn, who helped set up a legal defense fund for his brother, tweeted Monday in response to an activist calling on Flynn to withdraw the plea.

Another sister and brother of Flynn, Barbara Redgate and Jack Flynn, separately retweeted the same message from another activist that read: “Mueller suppressed evidence from the General Flynn case. His plea must be withdrawn and all charges dropped.” 

The chatter also comes amid reports that then-FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers last year that agents did not think Flynn intentionally lied to the FBI. Yet Flynn, in December, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition.

Flynn lost his White House job over that controversy, after being accused of misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials.

The idea of Flynn withdrawing his plea has picked up steam online in recent days, especially after the Washington Examiner’s Byron York reported on Comey’s 2017 comments.

SHOCK CLAIM ABOUT FBI’S MICHAEL FLYNN INTERVIEW RAISES QUESTIONS

FILE - In this May 1, 2008 file photo, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan is pictured during a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington. The special prosecutor who investigated the botched case against late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is not recommending criminal charges against any of the Justice Department attorneys who tried him despite finding widespread misconduct beyond what has yet been publicly revealed.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Judge Emmet Sullivan has a reputation for punishing Department of Justice overreach, including during the case against then-Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.

 (AP)

Fueling more speculation are other unusual moves behind the scenes: days after Flynn’s plea, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras recused himself and was replaced by Judge Emmet Sullivan. Sullivan has a reputation for punishing Department of Justice overreach, including during the case against the late Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.

Sullivan then raised eyebrows when he ordered prosecutors to give Flynn’s lawyers “any evidence in its possession that is favorable” to Flynn.

Mueller’s team has since postponed Flynn’s sentencing. And last Wednesday, Mueller’s team filed a protective order “governing the production of discovery,” which indicates they won’t fight the order to hand over documents.

The developments have piqued the interest of former federal prosecutors, who argue there could be bombshells in the material.

“Typically, exculpatory information is not required to be turned over when a plea has been done, but I think this judge is particularly sensitive to those issues, given some of his history and cases he’s had,” John Lauro, a former federal prosecutor in New York and defense attorney who specializes in white-collar criminal defense, told Fox News. 

Law professor Jonathan Turley, writing Wednesday in The Hill, questioned whether Flynn might believe evidence was “withheld.” 

Former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell wrote in a recent op-ed for The Daily Caller that “the recent postponement of General Flynn’s sentencing provides an opportunity for more evidence to be revealed that will provide massive ammunition for a motion to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea and dismiss the charges against him.”

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote in the National Review that it “certainly appears that Sullivan’s order supersedes the plea agreement.”

“Could this provide General Flynn with factual grounds of which he was previously unaware to seek to have his plea vacated?” McCarthy wrote. “Would he have a viable legal basis to undo the plea agreement that he and his lawyer signed on November 30? We do not know at this point.”

An attorney for Flynn, Robert K. Kelner, declined to comment.

But legal experts say there’s a high bar for a defendant to reach to successfully withdraw a guilty plea, though it’s not an impossible scenario.

“Withdrawing a federal plea is extremely rare and very difficult,” Robert Stahl, a white-collar criminal defense attorney in New York and New Jersey and a former assistant U.S. Attorney, told Fox News.

Even if the judge dismissed Flynn’s guilty plea, Mueller could still indict him, and charge him with other crimes in addition to lying to the FBI.

“There are lots of factors that go into a decision to plead guilty … In Flynn’s case, there are also the factors of other potential charges that were not pursued by the government in exchange for his plea entered,” Stahl said.

Lauro said withdrawing a guilty plea is “not typically an easy thing to do” but “it is something that can happen if it’s fair and just to do so under the circumstances.”

“It may be very well be that he makes a strategic decision to keep the plea in place because he has other issues,” he said of Flynn.

As part of his guilty plea last year, Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s Russia probe. In a written statement at the time of his plea, Flynn said his “guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

Meanwhile, President Trump, who previously said Flynn “lied,” has not ruled out pardoning his former adviser.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn yet,” Trump said last year. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see.” 

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.



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Impeached twice and still no wall, Mr. Trump goes from Washington

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump did not build a wall or end American carnage or finish his term with a robust economy. His slogan was “Make America great again,” but the lasting image of his term — rioters assaulting the U.S. Capitol and the nation’s republican form of governance, in his name — was anything but great.

The failed coup — if it was organized enough to call it that — concluded a presidency that often used Orwellian tools of Newspeak and Doublethink to communicate.

“This mob was fed lies,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

Trump’s lies, told up until the end in service of accumulating and maintaining power, were so conspicuous and dangerous that he was booted from the very social media sites that had built his base.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said that Trump shook the foundations of the country over four years.

“He proudly led a radicalized Republican Party and exposed just how extreme the party had become in pursuit of partisan power,” Zelizer said in an email exchange with NBC News. “In doing so, he stressed and strained our democratic institutions unlike any other president in recent history, breaking crucial norms of governance and giving legitimacy to extremist voices in our polity.”

Trump aides have circulated lists of what they say are his achievements in recent days, and the soon-to-be-former president will surely declare his presidency the greatest of all time for years to come. Most Americans say they disagree.

A PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released Tuesday found that only 16 percent of all adults, and 33 percent of Republicans, think Trump will be remembered as one of the best presidents of all time. Forty-seven percent of adults said his would be seen as one of the worst presidencies ever, including 13 percent of Republicans.

For most Americans — even in an era of deep and angry partisan division — the human effects of Trump’s actions have been too obvious to ignore despite his use of the bully pulpit to distract from his struggles. More than 400,000 Americans have died of coronavirus on his watch — after he said the disease would kill tens of thousands and then just disappear — and medical experts say that quicker and more effective leadership from the White House could have done more to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Like most presidents, Trump promised to unify the country. But he proved unable to work across the aisle in Congress. Aside from emergency spending to try to counter the catastrophic economic and public health effects of the disease — and the trade deal with Mexico and Canada — his policy achievements were limited to actions he could take without Congress. That was particularly true after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, creating a roadblock for his most extreme proposals.

It may be hard to remember, but he shut down the government for a record 35 days at the end of 2018 and start of 2019. Trump said he was “proud” to “take the mantle” of closing large parts of the federal government as he tried unsuccessfully to force Congress to give him money to build his proposed wall on the Mexico border.

Until his supporters laid siege to the Capitol, that was the most clear evidence of his inability and unwillingness to work with Congress.

Still, as Zelizer noted, Trump was able to put in place stringent immigration restrictions, pass a tax cut when Republicans held both chambers of Congress early in his term, roll back regulations on industry and fill the federal judiciary with conservatives.

“He advanced core conservative goals,” Zelizer said.

From a historical perspective, Trump’s legacy will be marked by one record he set at the end of his term: he was the only president ever impeached twice by the House of Representatives, and he lost the highest number of his own party’s members ever in the second impeachment vote. Ten House Republicans voted to ask the Senate to ban him from holding office in the future.

His first impeachment, which ended in acquittal by the Senate in February 2020, revolved around his withholding of $400 million in congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine as he tried to get that country to announce an investigation into Biden and Biden’s son Hunter. In other words, he was impeached once for using the power of his office to try to help his re-election campaign and a second time for sending a mob to the Capitol to prevent his defeat at the ballot box.

He will relinquish power against his will, in a cloud of disgrace uncommon to presidents, having failed to deliver on his most oft-repeated and loudly pronounced promises, and in an ongoing state of denial about the nature of the pandemic and about his legitimate defeat at the ballot box.

“He, in every respect, was unworthy to be president,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told MSNBC’s Joy Reid in an interview broadcast Tuesday. “It’s not ‘lessons learned,'” Pelosi said of Trump, “because it was so evident all along what a disgrace he was.”



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From the Women’s March to the Capitol riot

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Trump during the G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, on June 9, 2018.

The gathering, which included Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also with folded arms, and French President Emmanuel Macron, next to Merkel, was marked by sharp disagreements over Trump’s decision to impose higher import taxes on aluminum and steel imports. After leaving, Trump tweeted that he would instruct U.S. officials not to endorse the G-7 statement, after objecting to comments from Trudeau, the summit’s host.

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Washington hotels weigh inauguration profits against safety

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It used to be that inauguration was the cash cow for the Washington hotel industry. But this year, given the recent riot on the Capitol and the ongoing pandemic, hotel executives and workers are torn between catching up on lost revenues and staying safe

In the past week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser all asked visitors not to travel to the nation’s capital for the 59th presidential inauguration. But because hotels have suffered so much from a lack of tourists due to Covid-19, some hotels have tried to remain open and recover some losses.

“Inauguration is typically a shot in the arm for the D.C. economy,” said Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of the marketing group Destination D.C., who noted that business has declined $522 million in the past year since 49 conventions and large-scale events that were booked have been canceled. “Given the current pandemic and security threats, as well as indoor dining and museums and attractions closed, we expect hotel availability to remain and a smaller economic impact in comparison to previous years.”

Mixed response

The inauguration comes at a time when many Washington businesses, especially hotels, are desperate to recover from the past year’s losses and have suffered far more than hotels in other cities, according to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Angela Franco, interim president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said the group lobbied for hotels to remain open throughout the inauguration. She pointed to a report from the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer showing that each inauguration brings about $3 million in sales tax revenue. “The impact of Covid has been difficult … and now with everything that’s happening, I think it makes it a little more complicated,” she added.

Still given the safety concerns, some companies have come out forcefully against hosting guests. Airbnb announced it was canceling all reservations in the Washington metro area for the week and preventing any new reservations from being booked during that time. It added that all hosts and guests affected by the measure would be reimbursed at the company’s expense. VRBO told NBC News that it was not following competitors in the development of its plan, but that it instead “created a comprehensive refund policy” for any traveler to Washington who cancels a trip and will credit the host after BuzzFeed reported how some of its customers no longer felt safe visiting the Capital. On Tuesday, Expedia Group tweeted it would cancel new VRBO reservations in and around Washington through Friday.

But at hotels that wavered about closing, workers — especially ones who served guests who visited Washington during the capitol riot — expressed concerns. Based on feedback from its members, Unite Here Local 25, a labor union that represents employees from approximately 40 hotels, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, requested hotels in the metropolitan area to close and “permit their staff to opt out of reporting to work” on Inauguration Day.

Members of the National Guard stand outside the Capitol on Jan. 14, 2021.Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images

“No worker, union or nonunion, should have to risk their life to go into work,” John Boardman, executive-secretary treasurer of Local 25, said. “Unfortunately, that is the situation we are not faced with.”

The hotel workers’ union representing more than 7,000 employees in the Washington area asked hotels to shut down unless they are hosting the National Guard or security personnel. On Dec. 30, 2020, Black Lives Matter D.C. asked hotels and other businesses to refuse service to white supremacists in advance of the Jan. 6 riot. Since then, that group has said that continuing reservations only puts people of color and D.C. residents at risk.

“We stand in solidarity with these employees,”said Nee Nee Taylor, a core organizer of BLM D.C. who shared concerns for hotel workers who had to deal with drunk rioters and people who refused to wear masks.

Despite activists like BLM calling on hotels to shut down operations, plenty of hotels like the Capital Hilton remain open. “We have no plans to cancel hotel reservations and look forward to welcoming the many inauguration-related suppliers, government officials, medical professionals, media representatives, military and law enforcement who are traveling to Washington, D.C.” Capital Hilton wrote in a statement. While most hotels like the Hyatt Regency Washington welcomed visitors for the inauguration, they still did not hum with the typical flow of visitors received during most inaugurations.

Other hotels will not take the risk. In an attempt to minimize harm on Inauguration Day, the independently owned Line Hotel in Adams Morgan, D.C. is closed to the public from Jan. 16 through Jan. 20. “All of us at LINE D.C. stand unequivocally against the violent insurrection that took place last week at the Capitol,” the hotel wrote in a statement.

Disappearing revenues

In past years, hotels have counted on inaugurations as some of their most profitable weeks. According to the hotel data research company STR, the average daily rate on the night of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013 was $251.26 and $362.32 in 2017 for Donald Trump’s inauguration. In a typical inauguration season, prices of hotel rooms can increase up to 927%,MarketWatch reports. During the 2017 inauguration, Airbnb said that more than 15,100 booked housing and estimated that it generated more than $10 million in economic activity for the area.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, visitor spending in the nation’s capital was down 80 percent, translating to a loss of $375 million in local tax revenue. According to STR, hotel revenue was down by $1.5 billion.

But with the National Mall closing and Bowser extending a citywide ban on indoor dining and other Phase 2 activities until 5 a.m. Jan. 22, hotel industry experts predict many rooms in the metropolitan area will remain empty.

Anxious workers

Last week, the riot against the Capitol stirred fear and forced many hotel workers to feel unsafe.

Bloomberg reporter William Turton tweeted a video that went viral showcasing visitors at a Hyatt lobby near Capitol Hill that weekend dressed in Trump gear, defying Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelinesand not wearing masks. In response, The Hyatt said guests who did not comply with company policies would be “asked to leave the premises” or be “given the option of remaining in their guestroom for the duration of their visit.” But the hotel faced backlash on Twitter for letting guests violate CDC guidelines.

In another area hotel, hotel workers faced similar challenges with guests who refused to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“It was definitely scary,” said Emma Bowers, a manager at a Washington area hotel who did not provide the specific hotel name because she was not authorized to speak by her employer. She worked the 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift on the day before the Capitol riot began. “I kept my pepper spray near by and one of my male co-workers spent the night in a room just in case I needed some help.”

Out of precaution, Bowers has requested Inauguration Day off and will have additional people at the front desk on duty. Several of her workers, including a worker whose husband is in chemotherapy, are afraid of contracting the virus from anti-maskers and have expressed their concerns about working on Inauguration Day.

“It’s disappointing that we have to put up with it and just, you know, take these people’s crap,” the hotel manager said as she expressed concerns over her staff’s safety. “Who knows what some of these people are capable of.”



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