The judge overseeing former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s sentencing has earned a no-nonsense reputation during his tenure as a judge – presiding over cases in DC for more than three decades.
But during President Donald Trump’s time in office, Judge Emmet Sullivan has proven to be a significant player in multiple judicial narratives currently playing out that affect the Trump administration.
In August 2018, Sullivan threatened to hold then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt and ordered two asylum seekers be brought back to the United States when mid-hearing it was discovered the two had been put on a plane back to El Salvador.
On Tuesday, Sullivan delayed Flynn’s sentencing but not before he issued a harsh rebuke of Flynn’s actions while he appeared in federal court.
“I am not hiding my disgust, my disdain for your criminal offense,” Sullivan said of Flynn.
Flynn pleaded guilty a year ago to lying to federal investigators, and now that his sentencing has been delayed, Sullivan is having both sides update him on the case in March.
Sullivan was the judge who notably dismissed the corruption conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens in 2009. He also allowed a lawsuit to proceed that involves more than 200 Democrats alleging Trump has violated the emoluments clause, which is meant to prevent the president from receiving illegal foreign gifts. The Democrats say Trump is receiving illegal gifts through the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
In 1994, Sullivan was appointed to the US District Court of the District of Columbia as a district judge by former President Bill Clinton, according to his biography on the court’s website.
Prior to his time serving on the federal court, Sullivan, a native of Washington, DC, was appointed to serve as an associate judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by former President Ronald Reagan.
Following his time on the Superior Court, he was appointed by former President George HW Bush in 1991 to the DC Court of Appeals, according to his biography.
Sullivan was also the first person in Washington who was appointed to three judicial roles by three presidents, his biography states.
He attended Howard University where he earned a bachelor of arts in political science and received his law degree from Howard University School of Law.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Sullivan made accusations against Flynn that he ended up walking back after the court returned from recess.
“I made a statement about Mr. Flynn acting as a foreign agent in the White House,” Sullivan said, adding that it was an incorrect statement because Flynn had stopped lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government in 2016.
Sullivan also reversed course on questions he had asked regarding treason. “I’m not suggesting” Flynn committed treason, Sullivan said. “I was just trying to determine the benefit and the generosity of the government.”
“Don’t read too much into the questions I ask,” he said in court on Tuesday afternoon.
CNN’s Dugald McConnell, Katelyn Polantz, Tara Subramaniam and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.