Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Flynn sentencing abruptly postponed; judge expresses disgust

Hearing Ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn arrives for his sentencing hearing at US District Court in Washington Hearing Ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn arrives for his sentencing hearing at US District Court in Washington
Patty Aguilar | 20 December, 2018, 20:18

The sentencing of former Trump White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on a single charge of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned into a dramatic scene in a Washington, D.C., courthouse Tuesday.

Lawyers for Flynn had asked District Judge Emmet Sullivan to postpone the sentencing.

In a case stemming from the investigation into possible collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with Sergei Kislyak, Russia ambassador in Washington at the time.

"Arguably you sold your country out", Sullivan told Flynn in a extraordinary 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 Russian Federation probe.

Trump tweeted "good luck" to Flynn hours before the sentencing and said that, "despite tremendous pressure being put on him", there was "no Collusion!"

"General Flynn was a foreign agent while he was working in the White House and he kept that from his bosses".

When they returned, Flynn lawyer Rob Kelner defended Flynn's cooperation - but requested a postponement to allow for him to keep cooperating.

Sullivan accused him having "sold your country out", over the Turkey issue, said Dershowitz, and this was "flat out wrong".

Almost half a dozen former aides and advisers - including Flynn - have pleaded guilty or agreed to co-operate with prosecutors.

The Constitution limits the role of federal judges to actual "cases and controversies", and there was no controversy regarding the appropriate sentence of probation for Flynn.

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Sullivan gave a visibly shaken Flynn a chance to discuss delaying the hearing with his lawyers. He appeared ready to sentenceFlynn to prison but then gave him the option of a delay in his sentencing so that he could fully cooperate with any pending investigations. But Sullivan is not bound by these recommendations, and can impose a sentence of up to five years in federal prison.

After a brief recess, the judge pulled back on some of his comments, and said that he was not suggesting that Flynn committed treason. He said they only included those to differentiate Flynn from other defendants in the case who had received short prison sentences for lying.

Judge Sullivan told Flynn he would take into account his extensive co-operation with the government, which includes 19 meetings with investigators as well as a 33-year military career that included service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A new sentencing date has not been set, but a status report is due by March 13.

A small group of protesters were outside court, holding a large inflatable rat, while other demonstrators turned out in support of Flynn.

First, Sullivan suggested that Flynn might be guilty of treason.

Sullivan probably came into the courtroom before the recess with his mind made up about the sentence he meant to impose based on his erroneous views regarding treason and Flynn's supposed role as an agent for a foreign government while serving in the White House.

Flynn's legal woes stem from transition-period calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that raised intelligence community alarms even before Trump took office.

Flynn also lied about his request to Mr Kislyak that Russian Federation delay or block a vote at the United Nations on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Court papers show Flynn made the request at the direction of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Even the scene of the crime - the West Wing of the White House - seemed to gnaw at Sullivan, who repeated it several times, all the while emphasizing how unusual it was that the government and Flynn were asking him to bless a plea agreement even though Flynn had not completed his cooperation with the government.

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