A federal judge delayed Michael Flynn’s sentencing Tuesday at the behest of his attorneys following a bizarre sentencing hearing in which Judge Emmett Sullivan raised the prospect that the former White House national-security adviser committed treason, before backtracking and conceding that Flynn’s crimes were not, in fact, treasonous.
Sullivan, who is tasked with sentencing Flynn for one count of of lying to federal agents, gave Flynn’s attorneys the option of delaying his sentencing until the extent of his cooperation with prosecutors in other ongoing criminal cases could be made clear.
Sullivan, however, admonished the general during the hearing and suggested he betrayed his country.
“All along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Adviser to the President of the United States. That undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably you sold your country out,” Sullivan said.
Flynn is facing up to six months in prison but prosecutors have recommended leniency in light of Flynn’s providing “substantial help” in multiple ongoing criminal investigations.
Sullivan pushed Flynn during the hearing to admit that he knew he was committing a crime when he lied to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak — rebutting the defense, popular among Flynn’s allies, that the agents trapped him by failing to inform him that he was under investigation and could be criminally liable for lying to them.
The judge went on to accuse Flynn of lying to federal agents while standing in the White House, but rescinded that accusation after learning that Flynn’s conversations with investigators occurred before President Trump was sworn in. Following a recess, Sullivan clarified his earlier remarks about Flynn lying while in the White House and appeared to apologize for seeming to suggest that Flynn committed treason.
“I’m not suggesting” Flynn committed treason, Sullivan said. “I was just trying to determine the benefit and the generosity of the government. Don’t read too much into the questions I ask.”
Sullivan set a status update hearing for March 13, at which point prosecutors will report on the extent of Flynn’s cooperation in other ongoing investigations.
Flynn — a retired three-star general who served as national-security adviser for just the first 28 days of the administration — is the highest ranking administration official to be sentenced in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s investigators are now investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by instructing then-FBI director James Comey to end the investigation into Flynn in the spring of 2017.
Two of Flynn’s former business partners were accused, in an indictment unsealed Monday, of violating foreign lobbying rules by conducting a covert campaign to pressure U.S. officials to expel one of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political rivals.
Prosecutors say Flynn assisted their investigation into his former business associates but it remains unclear what other criminal investigations Flynn has assisted.