WASHINGTON — In a stinging rebuke, a federal judge lashed out at President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn during his sentencing hearing Tuesday, saying “I can’t hide my disgust, my disdain” at his crime of lying to the FBI.
“Arguably you sold your country out,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn in a tongue-lashing that raised the prospect that the judge could send the retired Army lieutenant general to prison, even though prosecutors have recommended against prison time, citing his cooperation in the Russia probe.
Flynn is to be the first White House official sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. The hearing is taking place amid escalating legal peril for Trump, who was implicated by federal prosecutors in New York this month in hush-money payments to cover up extramarital affairs. Nearly a half-dozen former aides and advisers — including Flynn — have pleaded guilty or agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Trump signaled his intense interest in the case by tweeting “good luck” to Flynn hours before the sentencing. He added: “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!”
Sullivan told Flynn that he would take into account his extensive cooperation with the government, which includes 19 meetings with investigators, as well as a 33-year military career that included service in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he also said he was forced to weigh other factors, too, including Flynn’s decision as national security adviser to lie to the FBI on the premises of the White House about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
The judge warned Flynn that he may not get full credit for his cooperation if he is sentenced as scheduled Tuesday since prosecutors said there’s a possibility that they may call on him to assist with other investigations down the road. Typically, judges like to sentence cooperating defendants after their cooperation is done so they can fully evaluate the help they gave to the government.
He gave Flynn a chance to talk it over with his lawyers, and the court went into a brief recess.
Earlier in the hearing, Sullivan asked Flynn a series of questions to make sure he wanted to move forward with his sentencing in light of a memo his attorneys submitted last week that took aim at the FBI’s conduct during agents’ January 2017 interview of Flynn. Flynn said that memo notwithstanding, he was ready to proceed with sentencing.