Federal Judge Delays Michael Flynn Sentencing In Case Of Lying To Feds
A federal judge delayed sentencing former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his talks with Russia’s ambassador.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he has significant outstanding questions about the case, including how the government’s Russia investigation was impeded and the material impact of Flynn’s lies on the special counsel’s inquiry.
Flynn had spent more than a year giving what prosecutors called all the cooperation they wanted, including in 62 hours of meetings and the production of “sweeping categories” of documents and electronic devices.
In light of that accommodation, the Justice Department had told a judge ahead of Tuesday’s hearing that it would be all right if Flynn received no prison time.
Flynn, in his filing, also asked for leniency.
But the judge was less certain about the extent of Flynn’s assistance–and the seriousness of the offense.
In a remarkable series of exchanges, Sullivan asked whether Flynn and his legal team wanted to push off the punishment, declaring that he was not bound by advisory guidelines that called for a maximum of six months in prison.
Ultimately, the judge directed both sides to file a status report by March 13.
Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner said that Flynn may testify in the case prosecutors are making in the Eastern District of Virginia against two of his former business associates. They were charged in documents unsealed on Monday with a scheme to act as unregistered agents for Turkey.
Flynn has been a model cooperator with the Justice Department, his lawyer said, and if he serves as a government witness in the Turkey lobbying case, that may be “the only area where there’s something left to give,” Kelner said.
“General Flynn has held nothing back, nothing, in his cooperation with the special counsel’s office,” Kelner said.
Another surprise twist
Judge Sullivan entered the courtroom with what he said were a number of concerns said called into question the guilty plea “or, at the very least, [Flynn’s] acceptance of responsibility.”
The judge repeatedly asked Flynn and his lawyers whether they wanted to take a recess to confer about legal issues or the prospect of a delay until his full cooperation with authorities could be assessed.
Sullivan also stressed Flynn’s service in the military and at the White House, where his false statements were made.
This was “a high-ranking senior official of the administration making false statements to federal agents while on the premises of the White House,” the judge said.
At another point, the judge asked prosecutor Brandon van Grack whether Flynn’s conduct might have amounted to “treason” and the judge also suggested Flynn may have been acting as a foreign agent during his 24 days in the Trump White House.
Van Grack responded that Flynn’s undeclared lobbying work for Turkey ended before his stint in the White House, and that “the government has no reason to believe that the defendant has committed treason.”
The judge later said he was merely asking the questions, not drawing any conclusions.
Flynn, one of nine children from a close-knit family, welcomed several of his siblings when he entered the courtroom. His wife and son sat in the first row, closely observing the proceedings and at times, shaking their heads.
The father of one of the prosecutors also secured a seat in the packed courtroom, greeting his son with a handshake during a recess.
The delay in the sentence came as a surprise following the public buildup ahead of the hearing.