President Donald Trump said Thursday that his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying about his Russia contacts, would be absolved by a Washington court, calling FBI investigators in his case "filthy cops."
Trump said fresh documents that surfaced in Flynn's case showed he was mistreated and should be freed by a court currently weighing his sentence.
"He's in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration," said Trump.
"These were dirty, filthy cops at the top of the FBI."
"Now we have to see what's going to happen but General Flynn was treated like nobody ... in this country should be treated."
- Calls to Russian ambassador -
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his contacts in late 2016 with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in the weeks after Trump won the election but before his inauguration on January 20, 2017.
The FBI at the time was investigating a broad effort by Russia to swing the presidential election in Trump's favor, which US intelligence said was approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On January 24, 2017, FBI agents interviewed Flynn, who had been named White House national security advisor, and later said he lied about his discussions with Kislyak.
Flynn was fired shortly after that for lying about the Russia contacts to Vice President Mike Pence.
After the Russia probe was handed over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Flynn negotiated a plea deal in December 2017, avoiding multiple possible charges including illegally lobbying for Turkey.
He admitted guilt to one count of lying, and pledged to cooperate with the broad Mueller probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- 'Guilty' to 'not guilty' -
But last year Flynn, 61, changed his legal team and stopped cooperating.
Facing a possible six month prison sentence, on January 14, 2020 Flynn asked to change his plea to "not guilty."
Two weeks later, his attorney Sidney Powell filed a motion to dismiss the entire case, citing new documents she said showed "outrageous government misconduct" in pursuing and prosecuting Flynn.
The documents made public Thursday included notes by an unnamed top FBI official strategizing how agents should go about their 2017 interview with him.
"What is our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?" the notes read.
Law enforcement experts say that is a normal option for FBI agents in interrogating a suspect, especially when their evidence of wrongdoing is strong.
But Powell and Flynn's supporters said it proved an FBI setup.
Trump has hinted several times that he could pardon Flynn when the case ends, and left that issue open again on Thursday, even as court deliberations are scheduled to continue for at least three more weeks.
"They tormented him (Flynn), they destroyed him, but he's going to come back bigger and better."
The new documents and Trump's comments fired up a high-pressure campaign online and on conservative television for federal judge Emmet Sullivan to let Flynn go free.
- Roger Stone appeals -
Another former Trump advisor charged in the Mueller investigation, Roger Stone, notified the Washington federal district court Thursday that he was appealing his conviction and 40-month sentence.
Stone was convicted in 2018 on seven counts of obstruction, false statements and witness tampering in a case focused on his 2016 coordination with WikiLeaks, to publish damaging information on Trump's rival Hillary Clinton that had been stolen by the Russians.
Stone had been expected to enter prison on Friday but has been given a delay due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Earlier this month he said he was "praying for" a pardon from Trump.
Trump tweeted Thursday that like Flynn, Stone was treated unfairly by the FBI and the courts.