WASHINGTON — A federal judge who described himself as disgusted by Michael Flynn's
Lawyers for Flynn requested the delay Tuesday after a tongue-lashing from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan raised the prospect that Flynn could spend time behind bars for lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
Prosecutors hadn't recommended prison, but the hearing that began with the defendant upbeat and smiling took an unexpected turn when the judge said his sentence would take into account not just Flynn's extensive
"I can't make any guarantees, but I'm not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal
The postponement gave Flynn a chance to continue
But the judge's upbraiding suggested otherwise and made clear that even defendants like Flynn who have
"This is a very serious
He later softened his tone, apologizing for suggesting that Flynn had worked as a foreign agent while in the White House when that other work had actually already ended. He also backpedaled on an earlier question on whether Flynn's transgressions amounted to treason, saying he didn't mean to suggest they did.
Flynn was to have been the first White House official sentenced in Mueller's investigation into possible
The hearing, though incomplete, marked a remarkable fall after a three-decade military career that included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and oversight of the
The hearing came amid escalating legal peril for Trump, who was implicated by federal prosecutors in New York this month in hush-money payments involving his former lawyer to cover up extramarital affairs. Nearly a half-dozen former aides and advisers have pleaded guilty, agreeing to
Flynn's help in the probes was especially notable. Yet he's nonetheless enjoyed Trump's continued sympathy, thanks in part to a sentencing memo last week that tapped into the president's suspicion of law enforcement and took aim at the FBI's conduct during the investigation.
Trump tweeted "good luck" to Flynn hours before the sentencing and said that, "despite tremendous pressure being put on him," there was "no Collusion!"
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Flynn's actions had nothing to do with Trump. "It's perfectly acceptable for the president to make a positive comment about somebody while we wait to see what the court's determination is," she said.
Sanders repeated her allegation that the FBI "ambushed" Flynn in an interview in which he lied. Of Trump's earlier FBI criticism, she said, "We don't have any reason to want to walk that back."
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.
During those conversations, Flynn urged against a strong Russian response to Obama administration sanctions for Russian election interference and encouraged Russia's opposition to a U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements. But when FBI agents approached him in the White House on Jan. 24, 2017, Flynn lied about those conversations, prosecutors said.
Flynn has never said why he lied, but Sullivan nonetheless castigated him for a deception that was then parroted by other senior administration officials.
The tone of Tuesday's hearing startled Flynn supporters who hoped his lawyers' arguments about the FBI's conduct — they suggested he was discouraged from having a lawyer present during the interview and wasn't informed it was a crime to lie — would resonate more than it did with Sullivan, who a decade ago tossed out the prosecution of a U.S. senator over government misconduct.
But while Sullivan tested those arguments, he was ultimately unmoved and Flynn mostly walked them back. He acknowledged that he indeed knew that lying to the FBI was a crime. Neither he nor his lawyers disputed that he'd lied to agents.
Flynn attorney Robert Kelner asked Sullivan not to penalize Flynn for the sentencing memo arguments, saying they were mostly intended to differentiate Flynn from other defendants in Mueller's investigation who'd received prison sentences for lying. Though Sullivan said none of the other defendants was a White House official, Kelner suggested none had been as
"He made the decision publicly and clearly and completely and utterly to
After a prosecutor raised the prospect of Flynn's continued
Sullivan gave a visibly shaken Flynn a chance to discuss delaying the hearing with his lawyers. The court briefly recessed.
When they returned, Kelner requested a postponement so that Flynn could keep
Flynn's lawyers were instructed to submit a status report by March 13. The judge also directed him to stay within 50 miles of the District of Columbia come Jan. 4.
Read the Flynn FBI interview notes: http://apne.ws/xfm8IsO
Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith in Providence contributed to this report.
Eric Tucker And Chad Day, The Associated Press