Michael Flynn sentencing delayed
Judge Sullivan harshly admonished Michael Flynn for acting as unregistered agent while serving as the national security adviser, leaving open the possibility of jail time for Flynn.
“All along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Adviser to the President of the United States. That undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably you sold your country out."
Sullivan says he could impose a sentence of incarceration.
"I am not hiding my disgust, my disdain for your criminal offense," Sullivan said, straining his voice and taking a brief pause. "Yes, your honor," Flynn said, though he was not asked a question.
Michael Flynn returned to the podium with his lawyers after Judge Emmet Sullivan wanted to ask him a few more questions.
"I believe I understand that" there could be more cooperation needed from Flynn, Flynn said to the judge. He confirmed he's already done 19 interviews with investigators.
Sullivan noted that this circumstance today is rare — hearings like this during continuing cooperation are often sealed, or are put on pause until the cooperation is complete.
Having a sentencing today "is your prerogative, and only yours," Sullivan said. "If you want to postpone this ..." Sullivan suggested again.
"I want to be frank with you, this crime is very serious," Sullivan said.
If Sullivan sentences Flynn today, he can only take into consideration the cooperation up to this point. A sentence at a later date might be different if Flynn's cooperation continued, Sullivan said.
"The aggravating circumstances are serious. Not only did you lie to the FBI, you lied to senior officials in the incoming administration," Sullivan said.
Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack says "it remains a possibility that General Flynn is continuing to cooperate with the government."
Judge Sullivan had asked Van Grack if Flynn was still cooperating, and Van Grack took several seconds to give that response.
Typically, defendants in this sort of circumstance don't proceed to sentencing until their cooperation is complete, because judges want to be able to fully evaluate how they helped before they are.
"The more you assist the government the more you arguably help yourself at the time of sentencing," Sullivan says.
But Mueller's team and the Justice Department clearly have left the door open for Flynn to continuing to help.
Van Grack is explaining that Flynn by this point has given "substantial assistance."
"The defendant had provided the vast majority of cooperation that could be considered," the former Mueller-team prosecutor tells the judge.
For the first time: The special counsel also acknowledged Flynn’s role in the indictment of two Flynn associates related to their lobbying on behalf of Turkey. Flynn gave "substantial assistance" to the Eastern District of Virginia US Attorney's Office in the Kian indictment unsealed yesterday.
If he had not cooperated and admitted to lying about the Turkish lobbying, Flynn could have been charged in that Virginia federal criminal case, Van Grack said.
Judge Emmet Sullivan is now walking through what he will take into account to determine sentencing.
"The process is highly individualized," Sullivan said. He will take into consideration the seriousness of the offense.
"A high ranking official of the government" making false statements in the White House is a "very serious offense," Sullivan said.
Sullivan also noted that Michael Flynn was still serving on the Trump campaign at the time of the incidents that led to his lie about his lobbying work for the Turkish government.
The judge acknowledged, though, that special counsel Robert Mueller's team has filed a request for leniency on Flynn's sentence. He will be considering the significance and usefulness of Flynn's assistance to the Justice Department.
Judge Emmet Sullivan has now formally accepted Michael Flynn's guilty plea, after spending several minutes revisiting the unusual circumstance of Flynn's interview and his intentions today.
He gave Flynn several outs to rethink his plea, and Flynn asserted several times he is ready to go forward.
Here's how that exchange went:
"I would like to proceed, your honor," Flynn said.
Sullivan asked, "Because you're guilty of this offense?"
"Yes, your honor," Flynn said, nodding.
Sullivan then accepted Flynn's plea.
"I do not" seek to withdraw the plea, Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn just told the judge overing seeing his sentencing for lying to the FBI.
Flynn said he is satisfied by his attorney representation, does not want extra time to speak with them, and does not want to speak with another, different attorney before this proceeds.
"Are you continuing to accept responsibility for his false statements?" Judge Emmet Sullivan asked. "I am, your honor," Flynn loudly responded.
Sullivan asks Flynn if he would like to postpone the sentencing, and Flynn says no.
What this means: He is standing firm on his decision to plead guilty to this crime.
Judge Emmet Sullivan is reviewing Michael Flynn's acknowledgments that he was wrong in his actions and takes responsibility, and also describes how Flynn made note of the circumstances of the interview in the White House.
Sullivan is walking through what both sides wrote in their pre-sentencing court papers and the FBI memos memorializing Flynn's interview with the FBI. Sullivan reminds the courtroom Flynn says he was "unguarded [at his interview] because he did not receive a warning and was not represented by counsel."
"Mr. Flynn's briefing concerned the court," Sullivan said, and called into question the circumstances of his guilty plea.
"I cannot recall any incident where the court has ever accepted the plea of someone who maintained he was not guilty," Sullivan said.
And now, a procedural moment in most sentencings becomes one of more high tension.
Sullivan will ask him a series of questions to make sure he is ready to plead guilty. Sullivan reminds him he will afford him an opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea if he wants to. Flynn responds he has no concerns about entering his guilty plea.
Then he added: "I was aware" that lying to FBI investigators was a crime when he was interviewed in Jan. 24, 2017, interview, Flynn tells the judge.