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Meet the judge who lambasted Flynn and blocked Trump’s asylum policy this week

This courtroom sketch depicts former President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, standing center, flanked by his lawyers, listening to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, right, as he addresses Flynn and points to the American flag inside the federal court in Washington, Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Sullivan agreed to postpone Flynn's sentencing so he can continue cooperating with the Russia probe.
Dana Verkouteren via AP
District Judge EmmetSullivan scolded former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday.
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It’s been a busy week for federal judge Emmet Sullivan.

On Tuesday, he oversaw the sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security advisor who’s pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sullivan ultimately delayed sentencing, but not before accusing Flynn of selling out his country (paywall).  “I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain, for this criminal offense,” he said.

A day later (Nov. 19), he blocked a Trump administration policy that made it nearly impossible for immigrants claiming to be victims of domestic and gang violence to apply for asylum. The measure, which was adopted in June by then attorney general Jeff Sessions, was challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Gender and Refugee Studies on behalf of several asylum seekers who were deported under it.

In his Wednesday (Dec. 19) ruling, Sullivan called the policy “arbitrary and capricious.” He ordered the government to stop it, and to bring the plaintiffs back to the US in order to review whether they have a right to apply for asylum.

It’s not the first time Sullivan, who was appointed to the US District Court for the District of Columbia by president Bill Clinton in 1994, ruled against the Trump administration on the same case. Earlier this year, he ordered the Department of Homeland Security to return a deported mother and daughter while they were mid-air en route to El Salvador.

“I know I’m raising my voice, but I’m extremely upset about this,” he said during a court hearing. “Somebody … seeking justice in a United States court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her? It’s outrageous. Turn that plane around and bring those people back.” The two immigrants were flown back.

Another Trump-related controversial issue to land in Sullivan’s courtroom: A lawsuit filed by Democratic lawmakers accusing the president of violating the US Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign officials at his hotels. (The rule bars office holders from receiving economic benefits from foreign governments.) In September, Sullivan allowed the lawmakers to proceed with their case.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia is a common destination for lawsuits related to the federal government, since many federal agencies and officials are based there.

Sullivan is unlikely to weigh in on any other Trumpian issues this week. The district court’s calendar shows the only other proceedings he’s slated to oversee this week have to do with a case of unlawful possession and transport of firearms.

Ephrat Livni contributed to this story.

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