Michael Flynn’s sentencing delayed at least 90 days by judge
A federal judge on Tuesday agreed to delay the sentencing of Michael Flynn because the former national security adviser may provide additional cooperation to investigators.
The shocking development came after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn that he could not guarantee that he would not receive jail time if he was sentenced Tuesday. Judge Sullivan also said he was “not making any promises” Flynn would be spared prison at a future sentencing date.
Prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and defense attorneys both recommend that the retired three-star lieutenant general face no prison time for lying to the FBI about his contacts with a former Russian ambassador. Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government.
But Judge Sullivan said he couldn’t hide his “disgust and disdain” with Flynn’s crimes, including working to covertly advance the interests of the Turkish government during the 2016 presidential election.
“Arguably, that undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out,” Judge Sullivan said.
The court is going to consider that,” the judge said. “I cannot assure you if you proceed today you will not receive a sentence of incarceration.”
Judge Sullivan continued his blistering attack on Flynn, telling him that his lies resulted in government officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and others to lie to the American people. Flynn was fired from the Trump administration for lying to Mr. Pence about his contacts with the ambassador.
“This is a very serious offense,” Judge Sullivan said. “A high-ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while in the White House.”
At one point, Judge Sullivan asked prosecutor Brandon Van Grack if Flynn could have been charged with treason.
Mr. Van Grack said he “had no reason to believe” Flynn committed treason. Judge Sullivan later walked back the allegation.
Flynn appeared thrown by Judge Sullivan’s barrage. His body tightened, and his jaw clenched.
Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner asked for the sentencing delay after a brief recess. Mr. Van Grack did not object to the delay. A status conference is scheduled for 90 days.
The delay will enable Judge Sullivan to review the totality of Flynn’s cooperation. Since pleading guilty last year, Flynn has provided “substantial assistance” to Mr. Mueller’s team in interviews spanning 19 meetings with the special counsel.
Flynn is a key witness for the Mueller team because he bridges the gap between the campaign and the start of the new administration. Prosecutors with Mr. Mueller have credited Flynn with encouraging other witnesses to come forward.
Mr. Kelner said Flynn will cooperate with prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia in a case against two of his former business associates. Flynn is expected to testify in that trial, according to Mr. Kelner.
“We are prepared to take your up on his suggestion of delaying sentencing so he can seek out the last modicum of cooperating in the Eastern District of Virginia,” Mr. Kelner said.
Two former business associates were indicted Monday by federal prosecutors in Virginia. The indictment says the two men violated foreign lobbying rules by plotting with Turkish officials to pressure U.S. government officials to extradite a cleric living in Pennsylvania to Turkey.
The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, is accused of masterminding a 2016 coup against the Turkish government. Prosecutors said the two defendants illegally and covertly hid the Turkish government’s involvement in the lobbying effort.
President Trump had wished his former national security adviser “good luck” in an early morning Twitter post just hours before the sentencing hearing.
“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn. Will be interesting to see what he has to say despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great, and obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
A year ago, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about a series of conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Prosecutor said Flynn’s actions hindered the Russian investigation.
In a January 2017 interview with FBI agents, Flynn denied urging Mr. Kisylak not to recommend an escalation of Russia’s response to U.S. sanctions leveled by the Obama Administration in 2016 for interfering with the election.
Flynn admitted in his guilty plea that he did encourage Mr. Kislyak not to retaliate against the sanctions. He also said he lied to the FBI about his discussions with Mr. Kislayk and officials from other countries about an impending United Nations resolution vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Mr. Trump fired Flynn early into the administration because he also lied to White House officials, including Mr. Pence about his discussions with Mr. Kisylak.
Flynn’s attorneys have maintained that he did not lie to investigators. They said in a sentencing memo last week that FBI agents duped him into lying and did not advise him that making false statements to federal authorities is a crime.
The Mueller team has rejected that suggestion, saying that Flynn, a former military intelligence officer, knew he would face criminal prosecution for lying to agents.
“Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI on January 24,” Mr. Mueller wrote in a court filing last week.
Later, Mr. Mueller said Flynn “chose to make false statements” about his communications with Mr. Kisylak weeks prior to the FBI meeting. Mr. Mueller noted that Flynn had already lied to several members of the Trump administration, including Mr. Pence, about his contact with Mr. Kisylak before the FBI interview.