The #NeverTrump Lawyer Representing Michael Flynn
The attorney representing former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is one of President Trump’s fiercest critics on the right.
“After the November apocalypse, it will fall to those Republicans who opposed Trump (those few) to gather the ashes and rebuild,” Robert Kelner tweeted in July. “This finally explains how Trump won the nomination. Turns out most of the voters are actually dead. #Zombievoters,” he added the next month.
Kelner is a longtime Republican, and a prominent election lawyer for the party. But in the 2016 presidential cycle, Flynn’s lawyer was outspoken in his criticism of Donald Trump, and vocal in his support for third-party candidate Evan McMullin.
Another time, he attacked the president for refusing to release his tax returns. “Question for Rudy: If Trump’s tax avoidance is laudable ‘genius,’ why has Trump fought so hard to hide it?”
And sometimes, his criticism was even more brutally blunt.
“Win or lose, aiding and abetting Trump is not a morally acceptable option,” he wrote in September.
Kelner is a respected lawyer in his field and no bleeding-heart liberal. He’s written articles about congressional investigations and the vetting process for presidential appointments, and how early voting helped Trump. And, during the election cycle, he dished criticism to both camps, albeit saving his most outspoken disdain for the Republican nominee.
In August, he opined in a New York Post story about a legal loophole that let the Democratic National Committee accept larger donations than normally allowed. In the plan, the donations were doled out by the Hillary Victory Fund to local democratic parties, which would then send them to the DNC.
“I’m not aware of any case law or regulations that would prohibit a state party from transferring to a national party committee funds raised through a joint fundraising committee,” election lawyer Robert Kelner told Bloomberg at the time. “But as a practical matter, it does appear that the DNC may be using Hillary Victory Fund as a mechanism for allowing donors to give more to the DNC indirectly than would otherwise be permitted directly.”
Later, in October, he opined to Buzzfeed about whether it was too late for the Republican Party to kick trump off the ballot.
"Rule 9, as currently framed, includes clear wiggle room. It includes a catch-all for a vacancy created ‘otherwise’ than in a classic death or withdrawal scenario,” he said at the time. “The RNC rules are filled with such negotiated weasel words to allow flexibility to deal with unanticipated scenarios.”
But his apparent hopes did not come to pass. Trump won, and the first few months of his administration have been plagued by scandal. Chief among them was the resignation of Gen. Flynn, who Kelner now represents.
“General Flynn Certainly has a story to tell and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Kellner said in a statement released on his client’s behalf on Thursday.
Flynn resigned from his White House position as Trump’s national security advisor in February, after controversy over his secret talks with the Russian ambassador. He had discussed sanctions against Russia with Kislyak, and had previously denied doing so. Flynn’s actions drew increased scrutiny to ties between Russia and the Trump administration, and he resigned amid allegations that he’d misled the administration about the content of his conversations. More recently, Flynn has also attracted controversy for his actions as a lobbyist on behalf of Turkey.
Flynn has offered to be interviewed about foreign policy deliberations in the White House in exchange for immunity from prosecution. “No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized, witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution,” Kelner said in the statement.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has reportedly turned down his request. Kelner was told that immunity for testimony in a probe about Russian influence in U.S. elections would be “wildly preliminary” and “not on the table,” NBC News reported.
“Rob Kelner is a very good lawyer who knows when a client needs immunity,” wrote Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias on Twitter. “And if Rob says Flynn has a ‘story to tell’, WH should watch out.”
The Daily Beast reached out to Kelner about his tweets. He declined to comment.