Attorneys for Michael Flynn on Wednesday demanded U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan recuse himself from the case, claiming the judge is “increasing hostile” and “improperly biased” against President Trump’s one-time national security adviser.
In a court filing, Flynn attorney Sidney Powell wrote that Judge Sullivan’s conduct risks “undermining the public’s confidence in the judicial process.”
“His continued presence in the case has become a national scandal undermining confidence in the impartiality of the federal judicial system and faith in the rule of law,” Flynn’s attorneys wrote.
The filing is the latest development in the prosecution of Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador in 2016. He later recanted and professed his innocence.
Judge Sullivan, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, has overseen the case since 2017, but the motion requesting his recusal comes nearly one a week after a heated courtroom argument between him and Ms. Powell.
The judge repeatedly grilled Ms. Powell about her conversations with Mr. Trump regarding the Flynn case, which she was reluctant to discuss and insisted had no bearing on the Justice Department’s bid to dismiss the case.
When Ms. Powell tried to invoke executive privilege, Judge Sullivan warned her that only federal employees can raise that claim.
Later in the hearing, when Ms. Powell argued that the judge should be disqualified, he chided her, saying she should have filed a motion already.
In Wednesday’s filing, she wrote that Judge Sullivan’s “contempt and disdain for the defense was palpable throughout the hearing on September 29, 2020, including when defense counsel made an oral motion for his immediate disqualification, which he refused to allow to even be fully stated for the record.”
“Accordingly, the defense files the motion to confirm the oral motion made at the hearing,” Ms. Powell wrote. “Judge Sullivan’s immediate disqualification is mandatory.”
Critics and allies of Mr. Trump have long claimed Judge Sullivan has displayed bias against Flynn in the lengthy court drama. In December 2018, the judge said Flynn “sold [his] country out” and asked if he should be charged with treason.
Judge Sullivan has also stubbornly refused to grant the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the charges against Flynn. The Justice Department has argued that the FBI tried to set up Flynn in a perjury trap and the interview was “unjustified.”
Instead of dismissing the case, Judge Sullivan appointed a retired judge to argue against the Justice Department’s request and examine whether Flynn committed perjury for claiming innocence for a crime to which he had earlier pleaded guilty.
In Wednesday’s court filing, Ms. Powell said the decision to appoint a retired judge is evidence of bias, accusing him of becoming too personally invested in the Flynn prosecution.
Earlier this year, however, a federal appeals court in Washington said judges have the authority to appoint third parties to review cases.