Flynn’s sentencing delayed as judge rebukes him
A federal judge Tuesday postponed the sentencing of Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, after warning Flynn that he could face prison for lying to federal investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition and hiding his role lobbying for Turkey.
At Flynn’s sentencing hear- ing in U.S. District Court in Washington, Judge Emmet Sullivan called Flynn’s crimes “a very serious offense” and said he was not hiding his “disgust” at what Flynn had done.
“All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser,” the judge told Flynn. “Arguably that under-
mines everything that this flag over here stands for. Arguably you sold your country out.”
Later in the hearing, the judge corrected himself, noting that Flynn’s work on behalf of Turkey had ended in mid-November 2016, before Flynn became national security adviser. The judge acknowledged he had made a mistake and said he felt “terrible about that.”
But Sullivan gave Flynn the option of delaying the sentencing until he had completed his cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors.
“I cannot assure that if you proceed today you will not receive a sentence of incarceration,” Sullivan told Flynn.
After a short recess, Flynn returned to the courtroom to take the judge up on his offer.
Flynn faces up to six months in prison, but federal prosecutors have recommended a lenient sentence, including the possibility of probation, because Flynn has provided “substantial help” with multiple criminal inquiries.
During the sentencing hearing, Sullivan questioned Flynn and his lawyer about their earlier suggestion that FBI agents might have tricked Flynn by failing to inform him before they interviewed him nearly two years ago that lying to them would constitute a federal crime.
Flynn told the court that he was not challenging the circumstances of the interview and that he knew lying to the FBI was a crime. In doing so, Flynn distanced himself from Trump’s efforts to suggest misconduct by the FBI in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Earlier, Trump had wished Flynn “good luck” in a Twitter post.
Flynn is the highestranking aide to Trump to face sentencing in the special counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign. His case has marked an extraordinary fall from grace for a retired three-star general who once headed one of the nation’s most important military intelligence operations, the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Prosecutors have refused to disclose publicly the details of how Flynn, 59, helped them during 19 interviews over the past year, redacting paragraph after paragraph of their sentencing memo to the judge. His lawyer, Robert Kelner, said in court Tuesday that Flynn’s cooperation was “very largely complete” but that Flynn wanted to make sure he got full credit for further assistance to prosecutors before being sentenced.
Sullivan made abundantly clear throughout the proceedings that he viewed the crimes admitted to by Flynn as extraordinarily serious and a betrayal of the trust placed in him as a highranking White House official. At one point he even asked prosecutors if Flynn might have committed treason. (The prosecutor in the case, Brandon Van Grack, said no.)
The special counsel’s office is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice, including by asking James Comey, the FBI director at the time, to end the investigation of Flynn in early 2017. It is unclear whether Flynn knew about the president’s reported attempt to intervene on his behalf.
In arguing for probation, Flynn’s lawyers had cited his lengthy military service, his cooperation with prosecutors and his contrition.
This courtroom sketch depicts Michael Flynn, center left, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, standing flanked by his lawyers, listening to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, right, as Sullivan addresses Flynn and points to the American flag inside the U.S. District Court in Washington on Tuesday.