Federal judge Emmet Sullivan skewered suggestions by former US national security advisor Mike Flynn’s lawyers that he was in some way tricked into lying to the FBI in 2017, while briefly delaying his sentencing today (Dec. 18).
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about phone calls to Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. But in a memo last week, Flynn’s lawyers pointedly noted that Flynn was not warned that lying to the FBI was a crime, had barbed comments for the agents who interviewed him, and noted that Flynn did not have a lawyer present during the meeting. The memo led to conspiracy theories about Flynn being “entrapped” by the FBI, with president Donald Trump fueling the idea that his former adviser, who resigned shortly after he had been appointed, was mistreated.
Sullivan immediately took aim at the notion of entrapment during Flynn’s sentencing hearing, saying he wondered if Flynn had really accepted responsibility for his crime, according to reporters in the courthouse. Responding to questions from Sullivan, Flynn said he knew that lying to the FBI was illegal and his lawyer said he wasn’t contending that Flynn needed to be reminded of that, nor that he needed to have a lawyer present, or that Flynn “was entrapped by the FBI.” Flynn reportedly affirmed several times that he was guilty of lying to the FBI.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have recommended that Flynn serve no jail time as a reward for cooperation with their probe into Trump campaign ties to Russia. However, Sullivan reportedly said he couldn’t promise that Flynn wouldn’t receive a jail sentence. He ordered the court to recess briefly for Flynn’s team to consider the morning’s hearing.
“I want to be frank with you, this crime is very serious,” Sullivan said, according to CNN. “Not only did you lie to the FBI, you lied to senior officials in the incoming administration.”
Flynn has also admitted lying about his private sector work for the Turkish government, and yesterday two of his former business associates were indicted for that work. Sullivan reportedly attacked Flynn for not registering as a foreign agent of Turkey while working in Trump’s administration, saying, “arguably you sold your country out.”
At one point Sullivan asked Mueller’s representative whether Flynn could have been charged with treason. The prosecutor said they hadn’t considered that charge.