Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing was postponed after a judge excoriated him for trying to blame the FBI for his false statements after committing a series of crimes, NBC News reports.
Flynn was scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday for lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. He pleaded guilty to the single lying charge but had faced numerous charges.
Under federal guidelines, the recommended sentence is zero to six months in prison, though special counsel Bob Mueller has recommended no prison time or a short sentence.
But as the hearing approached, Flynn’s camp increasingly claimed that Flynn was somehow trapped into lying to the FBI. US District Judge Emmet Sullivan made it clear that he was not going to allow Flynn to play both sides.
The judge grilled Flynn on whether he knew lying to the FBI was a crime.
“I was aware,” Flynn replied.
"I cannot recall any incident in which the court accepted a guilty plea in which he was not guilty, and I don't intend to start today," Sullivan said. "Are you continuing to accept responsibility for your false statements?"
"I am, your honor," Flynn answered.
Elsewhere during the hearing, the judge criticized Flynn for working on behalf of the Turkish government while he was an adviser to Trump.
"All along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security advisor to the president of the United States," Sullivan said, referring to charges that weren’t brought against Flynn as part of the deal.
"That undermines everything this flag over here stands for," the judge said. "Arguably you sold your country out."
Flynn agreed to delay after judge warned he may go to prison:
Flynn’s legal team agreed to delay the sentencing until after his cooperation ended after the judge warned that he would impose a harsher sentence than expected.
"If you want to postpone this, and come back at some later point ... that's fine with me," the judge said. "I have to caution you that the sentence imposed today may not be the same sentence you would get after cooperation ends. The court likes to be in a position to say there is nothing else this defendant can to do help the United States of America."
"I cannot assure you that if you proceed today, you will not receive a sentence of incarceration,” the judge told Flynn. “This is a very serious offense. A high ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while in the White House. Very serious crime. Can’t minimize that.”
"I'm not hiding my disgust, my disdain," the judge said.
Judge questioned whether Flynn committed treason:
"Hypothetically could he have been charged with treason?" Sullivan asked prosecutor Brandon Van Grack during the hearing.
"Because It's such a serious question, I am hesitant from answering,” Van Grack replied.
"I wasn't suggesting he was committing treason. I was just curious if he could have been charged. Lots of conspiracy theories out there. Not taking any uncalled offenses into consideration. Was trying to consider benefit. I'm not suggesting treason,” the judge later clarified.
"The government has no reason to believe the defendant committed treason,” Van Grack said.