WASHINGTON — Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s sentencing for lying to the FBI was bumped to next year as his attorneys and the prosecution weigh his potential continued cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller.
The decision to come back to court with updates on the case in March came after Flynn, responding to a series of pointed questions from the judge, said he understood lying to FBI agents was a crime and Flynn’s lawyer said the former DIA chief is not asserting he was entrapped by agents.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators on Dec. 1, 2017. Flynn’s attorneys argued in a sentencing memo last week that he should get no jail time. Mueller requested not more than 6 months behind bars because of Flynn’s “substantial assistance” in the Russia probe.
“As the government has made clear, his cooperation was not grudging or delayed. Rather, it preceded his guilty plea or any threatened indictment and began very shortly after he was first contacted for assistance by the Special Counsel’s Office,” Flynn’s attorneys wrote, describing Flynn’s meeting with FBI agents and noting he wasn’t advised that lying to the FBI was a crime. “…General Flynn’s case differs from that of Alexander Van der Zwaan, who pled guilty to lying to the Special Counsel and failing to produce requested documents. Unlike General Flynn, Mr. Van der Zwaan is a trained attorney who was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview.”
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District of Columbia noted that the filing from Flynn’s attorneys “concerned the court, as it raised issues that may affect or call into question his guilty plea, or at the very least his acceptance of responsibility.”
“I cannot recall an instance of a court ever accepting a guilty plea from someone who did not maintain he was guilty, and I do not intend to start today,” he said.
Sullivan specifically asked Flynn if, at the time of the Jan. 24, 2017, interview with FBI agents at the White House, he was “aware that lying to FBI investigators was a crime.”
“I was aware,” Flynn replied.
The judge asked Flynn attorney Robert Kelner if it was the defense’s contention that Flynn “was entrapped by the FBI” or if they’re contending that FBI misconduct “raised any degree of doubt that Mr. Flynn intentionally lied to the FBI.”
“No, your honor,” Kelner replied to both.
Sullivan asked Flynn if he wanted to postpone sentencing to reconsider his guilty plea, or move forward. Flynn said he wanted to proceed.
“Because you are guilty of this offense?” the judge asked.
“Yes, your honor,” Flynn replied.
Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack told the judge that it “remains a possibility” Flynn’s cooperation with government investigators will still be needed. He said Flynn assisted in the indictment announced Monday of two associates with whom he lobbied on behalf of Turkey for the extradition of a Turkish government foe.
“The president’s national security advisor, you can’t minimize that,” Sullivan said while talking about Flynn’s offenses. “So 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.”
“Arguably, that undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out,” the judge added, noting he’s “not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense.”
After a recess, the judge clarified, “I’m not suggesting he committed treason.”
Van Grack said it’s not the contention of the Mueller team that Flynn committed treason.
Flynn’s lawyers told the judge that “we are prepared to take your honor up on his suggestion of delaying sentencing, so he can eek out the last modicum of cooperation” with the special counsel.