Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday turned out the be – arguable – the biggest 3-Ring Circus so far involving criminal proceedings surrounding federal prosecutors’ numerous investigations and charges concerning the Trump campaign and administration.
Editor’s Note: Samuel Warde is the editor-in-chief of Liberals Unite (recently re-branded as The Art of Living) as well as a contributor to Mindy Fischer, Writer. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. You can view a list of his articles here.
The sentencing hearing for The United States vs Michael Flynn is in recess until 12:30pm (Eastern) to give Flynn an opportunity to discuss the apparently very real possibility that he will be receiving prison time with attorneys. Of note is the fact that Judge Emmet Sullivan asked Flynn multiple times if he wanted to go forward with his sentencing or whether he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.
Two reporters have been live tweeting the hearing, which we will detail below starting with Ryan J. Reilly who writes for Huffington Post, mixed in with some tweets by Tim Ryan who writes for Courthouse News to provide further details.
Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing is now underway.
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) December 18, 2018
Michael Flynn's sentencing is set to begin in about 15 minutes. I'll have updates for you here throughout the hearing, but also check out @CourthouseNews for my story after the dust clears.
— Tim Ryan (@tjryan93) December 18, 2018
Ryan J. Reilly: Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing is now underway.
Tim Ryan: Sullivan is going through Flynn’s claims that he was mislead by the FBI in the Jan. 24 interview. That’s the interview where he lied to FBI agents and he says the FBI encouraged him to do it without attorneys and did not notify him it was a crime to lie to federal agents.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan asks Flynn if he wished to challenge the circumstances by which he was interviewed by the FBI. “No, your honor.”
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan is making sure it’s abundantly clear that Michael Flynn is pleading guilty because he’s guilty. That he lied to the FBI, that he knew it was wrong to lie to the FBI.
Tim Ryan: Sullivan says those claims could “affect or call into question” Flynn’s plea or at the least his acceptance of responsibility Flynn is at the podium now, answering questions about the claims. Flynn says he does not wish to challenge the circumstances of his FBI interview
Tim Ryan: Sullivan asks if Flynn is still willing to accept responsibility for his actions. “I am your honor,” Flynn responds.
Ryan J. Reilly: Does he want to postpone? No. Wanna chat with your lawyers in another room? No.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan, question Flynn lawyer: How is raising those contentions about the circumstances under which Mr. Flynn lied consistent with acceptance of responsibility?
Tim Ryan: Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, says they raised the concerns about the FBI interview because they wanted to distinguish from other Mueller cases where people have gotten jail time. He said those people, specifically George Papadopoulos, had more notice than Flynn did.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan giving Flynn one final shot to withdraw his guilty plea. Judge asks if he wants to proceed. FLYNN: “I would like to proceed.” Because you’re guilty? FLYNN: “Yes, your honor.” Now proceeding.
Tim Ryan: Sullivan is now going over the facts of Flynn’s case. He’s largely reading from the statement of offense filed in December 2017 when Flynn first entered his plea.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan: Is Mr. Flynn still cooperating? Gov: It “remains a possibility” that he’s still cooperating.
Ryan J. Reilly: Gov says the decision to proceed to sentencing is based on the totality of Flynn’s assistance. Has already provided “vast majority” of his potential cooperation. Highlights indictment unsealed yesterday against Flynn’s business partner.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan: So Flynn could’ve also been charged in that indictment unsealed in Virginia yesterday, right? Gov: Yes. Judge Sullivan: “Exposure to Mr. Flynn would have been significant?” Gov: Yes.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan: “This crime is very serious.” “In the White House! In the West Wing!” “It’s a very serious offense.” “You can’t minimize that.”
Tim Ryan: Sullivan going into his sentencing considerations now. “This is a very serious offense,” Sullivan said. “A high ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while on the physical premises of the White House.”
Tim Ryan: Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack says “it remains a possibility” that Flynn will cooperate with the government going forward. Flynn provided “substantial assistance” on an indictment unsealed in Virginia yesterday against two of his associates
Tim Ryan: Sullivan is making sure Flynn still wants to go to sentencing today. He notes that Flynn could still cooperate more with the government, which could let him ask for a lower sentence.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan to Michael Flynn: “Arguably, you sold your country out.”
Tim Ryan: “Arguably, you sold your country out,” Sullivan said. “The court’s going to consider all that. I cannot assure you that if you proceed today you will not receive a sentence of incarceration.” He went on: “I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense.”
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan: “I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense.” Says he can’t guarantee he’s going to avoid incarceration. Gives Flynn yet another opportunity to speak with his lawyers.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan is now asking government if Flynn could have been charged under the Logan Act, or if there are any other charges that Flynn could have faced.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan even asked the government whether Flynn could have been charged with treason for interfering in Russian sanctions imposed by Obama administration. Government didn’t want to go there.
Ryan J. Reilly: They’re now taking a recess until 12:30, at Flynn’s request.
Tim Ryan: We’re recessing until 12:30, at Flynn’s request. Sullivan offered the recess to Flynn while he was going over the seriousness of the offense and shortly after saying he could not promise he would not sentence Flynn to jail time.
Check back for further updates regarding the remainder of the hearing. We will be adding additional tweets from both journalists once the hearing returns from recess.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan is now back at the bench. Stay tuned.
Ryan J. Reilly: Judge Sullivan is now trying to walk back some of his rhetoric before the break. Says he was just asking about treason, not saying that Flynn committed it. “Don’t read too much into the questions I asked.” Sullivan says he couldn’t even tell you what the elements of treason are.
Ryan J. Reilly: “This case is in a category by itself,” says Sullivan. He’s very interested in the notion that Flynn committed his crime on White House grounds.
Ryan J. Reilly: FLYNN LAWYER NOW SEEKS TO DELAY SENTENCING.
Tim Ryan: Kelner says Flynn wants to delay his sentencing, saying he might provide more cooperation.
Tim Ryan: Kelner specifically mentions yesterday’s case unsealed in Virginia. He said it is “likely” Flynn will testify in that case and notes that could warrant consideration at his sentencing in the future.