A federal judge has delayed sentencing on Michael Flynn, the Donald Trump White House’s National Security Advisor, after hinting he thought Flynn deserved slammer time for lying to the FBI about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak
The move stunned reporters, who had expected Judge Emmett Sullivan to follow Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team recommendation Flynn not serve jail time due to the cooperation he already had provided the ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in the election. Instead, Sullivan told Flynn to come back on March 13, by which time Flynn presumably would have cooperated further with the investigation. Flynn already has been cooperating for about a year.
Heading into the sentencing, Flynn’s lawyers, with full-throated endorsement of Trump, implied FBI had tricked their client into lying by the FBI , because authorities had not explained to the retired general that he should not lie to the FBI. His lawyers also decried the fact that Flynn did not have a lawyer present at the time. (In response to Flynn’s lawyers, Mueller on Monday released another of those heavily redacted memos, clearly documenting how Flynn lied to the FBI repeatedly about his contacts with Kislyak.)
It was a bad move on the part of Flynn’s lawyers. The judge was having none of it, especially after Flynn met with Mueller’s team 19 times to cooperate, earning Mueller’s recommendation for no prison time.
So Sullivan kicked things off asking Flynn, the highest ranking official so far charged with crime in Trump’s White House circle,if he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea and if he had in fact been tricked. Flynn responded he had aware that his lying repeatedly to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak was a crime and he did not want to withdraw his guilty plea.
After Sullivan gave Flynn several opportunities to withdraw that plea, he formally accepted the plea, then lit into Flynn, calling his offense “very serious” and expressing his “disdain” and “disgust.”
“You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Adviser to the president!” Sullivan scoffed at Flynn in the court, as Flynn’s team began to get the sense this clambake was not going to play out according to script.
“Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for! Arguably, you sold your country out!” the judge blasted, according to media reports from inside the court, where TV cameras were not allowed.
After calling for a recess, the judge returned and again asked Flynn’s legal advisers if they wanted to delay sentencing, in what was no longer being seen as a subtle hint.
Though Mueller reported Flynn has been super-cooperative, President Donald Trump, who also had fired Flynn for lying to Veep Mike Pence about contacts with the Russian ambassador, this morning tweeted wishing Flynn “good luck.” That’s in marked contrast to Trump’s reaction to former fixer Michael Cohen’s sentencing. POTUS called Cohen a “rat” who agreed to lie in order to get less jail time, which is more in character with Trump’s mob-boss approach to these situations. Cohen last week was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty on a handful of charges that include lying to Congress and arranging hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen MacDougal in violation of campaign finance laws.