Flynn Sentencing Postponed as Judge Raises Doubts: Court Update

(Bloomberg) -- Michael Flynn, who was a campaign adviser to President Donald Trump and briefly his national security adviser, was in Washington federal court for sentencing. He pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has recommended no prison time because of his cooperation with that office and other prosecutors. Here’s a look at the action:

Judge Agrees to Postpone Sentencing (12:57 p.m.)

Flynn’s sentencing was postponed after Judge Emmet Sullivan told him to consider pushing it off until after he has completed assisting prosecutors. A status hearing is scheduled for March 13.

Judge Says He Regrets Treason Suggestion (12:50 p.m.)

Sullivan resumed Flynn’s sentencing hearing and expressed regret for an earlier statement in which he falsely suggested that Flynn’s activities as an unregistered foreign agent continued into his time as Trump’s national security adviser. Sullivan had asked whether that would be treason.

“I feel terrible about that,” Sullivan said, adding he had never presided over a treason case. Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack confirmed the facts and said that “the government has no reason to believe that the defendant committed treason.”

Recess Called So Flynn Can Consult With Lawyers (12:15 p.m.)

Judge Emmet Sullivan called a recess until 12:30 p.m. to allow Flynn to consult with his lawyers. The judge had advised Flynn that he might have an interest in delaying sentencing until prosecutors are finished questioning him as part of his cooperation deal.

The turn of events suggests that the judge may give Flynn prison time unless he consents to a sentencing delay that would let him benefit from his possible further cooperation.

‘You Sold Your Country Out,’ Judge Says (12:01 p.m.)

Sullivan noted that Flynn made his false statements while serving as the U.S. national security adviser, even as he was acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

“Arguably, you sold your country out,” Sullivan said.

“I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense,” he added.

Flynn’s Continued Cooperation ‘a Possibility’ (11:49 a.m.)

Prosecutors may continue to call on Flynn to help with investigations, Van Grack said.

After Sullivan called Flynn’s lying to the FBI “very serious” and said that the advisory guidelines for his sentence were for zero to six months in prison, Sullivan asked Van Grack whether Flynn was still cooperating under his plea agreement.

“It remains a possibility,” the prosecutor said.

Van Grack added that Flynn could have been indicted for conspiracy for his role in illegal lobbying for Turkey, which might have carried a sentence of up to 10 years.

Flynn Would ‘Like to Proceed’ Because He’s Guilty (11:34 a.m.)

Flynn told Judge Emmet Sullivan that he had no intention of withdrawing his guilty plea or postponing his sentencing. “I would like to proceed your honor,” Flynn said.

“Because you are guilty of this offense?” Sullivan responded.

Flynn said yes. The judge said there was no reason to reject the guilty plea and moved on to the sentencing phase.

‘I Was Aware’ Lying to FBI Was Illegal, Flynn Says (11:25 a.m.)

Despite a pre-sentencing claim by Flynn’s legal team that FBI agents tricked him during their questioning, Flynn told the judge that he wouldn’t challenge the circumstances of the interview.

He said he knew at the time that lying to the FBI was a crime. “I was aware,” he told the judge.

Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, told the judge he does not believe FBI had a duty to warn Flynn that lying was a crime or that his client was entrapped.

‘Great Deal of Nonpublic Information’ (11:25 a.m.)

Judge Emmet Sullivan, in his opening remarks, noted that he has a “great deal of nonpublic information” before him in Flynn’s sentencing -- underscored by redacted sections in the public filings that the judge and others can see. Sullivan urged counsel to warn him if he unintentionally strays into danger of revealing something he shouldn’t.

What’s at Stake (11:16 a.m.)

Flynn has cooperated extensively with prosecutors on three investigations, Mueller’s team has said. He provided information about a former business partner, Bijan Kian, who pleaded not guilty earlier this morning to charges related to a secret effort to lobby on Turkey’s behalf. Flynn isn’t named in the indictment in that matter, but he’s identifiable. Flynn, in a recent filing, also suggested that FBI agents questioned him without making clear that he could face penalties for lying. Mueller’s team has said that nothing the agents did caused Flynn to lie.

One thing to watch: Will Judge Sullivan take any of that into account in handing down a sentence?

Flynn, Mueller’s Team Arrive (11 a.m.)

Van Grack and another prosecutor, Zainab Ahmad, arrived in the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., to represent Mueller’s team for the 11 a.m. hearing. Flynn, wearing a suit and tie, was seated between his attorneys Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony.

Ahmad, a Brooklyn prosecutor who has specialized in terrorism and foreign intelligence cases, has previously kept a low profile in Mueller’s cases, making her presence this morning noteworthy.

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