By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) - Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser who pleaded guilty in a case related to the Russian election collusion investigation, is eager to move to the sentencing phase and put his legal ordeal behind him, Flynn's lawyer said at a hearing on Tuesday.
Robert Kelner confirmed at the hearing that his client continues to cooperate with U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of any links between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Kelner also indicated the evidence the judge had ordered Mueller provide to Flynn's legal team had not altered his case.
Flynn's court appearance on Tuesday was his first since he pleaded guilty in December to lying to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his discussions with Russia's ambassador to the United States regarding U.S. sanctions and a U.N. resolution related to Israel. Flynn, a former Army lieutenant general, was forced out as national security adviser after only 24 days in the job.
"General Flynn is eager to proceed to sentencing," Kelner told District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is overseeing the case in a Washington federal court.
Kelner also said Flynn, who faces up to six months in prison, could agree to shortening the normal gap between the end of his cooperation with prosecutors and a sentencing hearing because the underlying facts of his plea deal have not changed.
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In a statement a few hours after the hearing on Tuesday, Flynn announced that he would be joining the Stonington Global LLC consulting firm founded by Washington lobbyist Nicolas Muzin and New York businessman Joey Allaham, both registered lobbyists for Qatar.
Flynn, who ran a lobbying group before joining the Trump administration, will be director of global strategy at the firm. The company plans to advise investors, sovereign wealth funds and other clients on equity markets and interactions with governments, with defense procurement one area of focus, the statement said.
The Tuesday hearing was called by Sullivan after Flynn and Mueller submitted a joint filing late last month asking the court to order a presentencing report - a report by a probation officer for sentencing - while postponing sentencing for a third time.
Flynn appeared at the hearing as Sullivan had directed but did not address the court.
Sullivan said he would be willing to schedule a sentencing hearing two months after Flynn's cooperation concludes, rather than the normal 90 days. Both Kelner and Brandon Van Grack, a prosecutor with Mueller's office, said they would welcome such a move to expedite the process. They have agreed to provide a status report to the court by Aug. 24 but Sullivan indicated they could have more time if needed.
The move to delay sentencing again indicates that Mueller still needs Flynn's cooperation, possibly for a trial where he would testify against someone yet to be charged, said Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
Flynn advised Trump on national security during the 2016 presidential campaign. Before that he was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama but was pushed out of the job in 2014.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott)