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.
The attorney, Robert Kelner, confirmed at the hearing that his client is continuing to cooperate with U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of any links between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
Kelner agreed with the judge's suggestion that a sentencing hearing could be held within 60 days of the conclusion of Flynn's cooperation with Mueller, rather than the usual 90 days, as a way to expedite an end to his case.
Flynn's court appearance on Tuesday was his first since he pleaded guilty in December to lying to FBI agents 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 U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is overseeing the case in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Kelner said he did not expect material changes to the facts of the case going forward, an indication that evidence turned over by Mueller has not prompted a rethink of Flynn's plea agreement. Sullivan had ordered all evidence, including that gathered prior to Flynn's plea and anything potentially favorable to Flynn, be provided to the defense.
In an odd twist, Flynn sought to distance himself from a Wall Street Journal story that appeared a few hours after Tuesday's hearing indicating that he planned to join a consulting firm founded by two registered lobbyists for Qatar
The lobbyists, Nicolas Muzin and Joey Allaham, had given a statement to the Journal about the new firm, Stonington Global LLC, that included a comment attributed to Flynn saying he was excited to join it as director of global strategy. Muzin provided a copy of the statement to Reuters.
Kelner later emailed a statement to media saying that while Flynn was aware a statement was being drafted he did not intend for it to be released "at this time." He said its issuance appeared to be the result of a misunderstanding.
Muzin said he and Allaham could not comment on Flynn's "considerations about the timing of the announcement" but looked forward to working with him.
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.
Flynn's lawyers and Mueller's prosecutors have agreed to update the court by Aug. 24 on the progress that has been made, although Sullivan indicated he was willing to give them more time if it were 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 Bill Trott and Leslie Adler)