Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, was an early supporter of the Trump campaign, and infamously called for the incarceration of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention.
He came under scrutiny for a variety of potential criminal activities, and reached a plea deal in December 2017 with the special counsel team led by Robert Mueller. As part of the deal, he agreed to cooperate and admitted making fraudulent statements in an interview with FBI agents at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017. Flynn stepped down as national security adviser in mid-February 2017, less than a month into the Trump presidency, because the White House says he misled officials there about his contacts with the Russians.
“I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense,” U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington told Flynn.
Sullivan also walked through a number of procedural steps to make sure that Flynn was pleading guilty because he was guilty and not for any other reason. He seemed frustrated with many of the arguments from Flynn’s team that he suggested took away from Flynn’s supposed acceptance of responsibility for his crime.
Sullivan had Flynn admit, once again, that he had lied to the FBI and was pleading guilty because he was guilty. He gave Flynn ample opportunity to back out of his guilty plea, discussed with the prosecution the variety of other crimes Flynn could have faced, and said Flynn’s criminal exposure would have been “significant” had be been charged with the other offenses.
“This crime is very serious,” Sullivan said, noting that Flynn lied “In the White House! In the West Wing!” Flynn shouldn’t “minimize” his “very serious” offense, Sullivan said.
“Arguably, you sold your country out,” Sullivan told Flynn. He then asked the government whether undermining U.S. sanctions against Russia for their interference in the 2016 election could be considered treason, a suggestion the government didn’t want to weigh in on. (Soon after, the judge said he did not mean to suggest Flynn committed treason.)
Arguably, you sold your country out. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, speaking to Michael Flynn
After nearly two hours in the courtroom, the judge ended up agreeing to delay sentencing Flynn so the former adviser can cooperate further with Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as with a case against Flynn’s former business partner. Flynn will now be sentenced in March.
Flynn’s plea deal prevented his prosecution on a host of other potential charges. One example: An indictment against Flynn’s former business partner at The Flynn Group, Bijan Kian, was unsealed on Monday, the day before Flynn’s sentencing. That indictment, which refers to Flynn as “Person A,” says that Kian and Flynn worked together on an illegal campaign to do the bidding of the Turkish government, which was seeking to extradite a cleric living in the United States that the Turkish government accused of instigating a failed coup in 2016.
Flynn’s attorneys had argued for leniency ahead of his sentencing. Mueller’s team indicated it was open to a sentence in the range of zero to six months, but encouraged the court to reject Flynn’s “attempt to minimize” the seriousness of his crime.
“A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents,” Mueller’s team wrote on Friday. “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth.”