‘You sold your country out,’ judge tells Michael Flynn as sentence delayed

Trump’s ex-adviser in court for lying to FBI about conversations with Russian ambassador

Michael Flynn, former US national security adviser, arriving at federal court in Washington on Tuesday. Photograph:  Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Michael Flynn, former US national security adviser, arriving at federal court in Washington on Tuesday. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

 

A US federal judge has postponed a sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn, the retired general who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with the Russia probe when he served as President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser.

Judge Emmet Sullivan had been expected to sentence Mr Flynn on Tuesday, in what would have represented a significant milestone for Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Mr Mueller had recommended that Mr Flynn receive little or no prison time because he had provided “substantial assistance” for several investigations, including the Russia probe.

The judge accepted a request from Mr Flynn’s lawyers to postpone the hearing, but not before he harshly rebuked the retired general, saying, “Arguably, you sold your country out”. Speaking to Mr Flynn, Judge Sullivan said the charges against him were “very serious”.

Mr Flynn, who was fired from his role as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration, joined the Trump campaign as an adviser in 2016. After Mr Trump was elected, he was appointed White House national security adviser.

He was fired after three weeks for lying to White House officials about conversations he had with Sergei Kislyak, then Russian ambassador to the US, before the inauguration. Mr Flynn lied to the FBI when questioned about his discussions with Mr Kislyak.

Mr Flynn, who pleaded guilty a year ago, has met with the Mueller team at least 19 times. In a recent court filing, Mr Mueller said Mr Flynn had provided valuable “first-hand information about the content and context of interactions between the transition team and Russian government officials”. He added that by co-operating at an early stage, Mr Flynn may have encouraged others with relevant knowledge to talk to investigators.

‘Good luck’

Mr Trump wished his former adviser “good luck” on Twitter on Tuesday ahead of the hearing. “Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign,” the president wrote. “There was no Collusion!”

During the presidential race, Mr Flynn sparked strong criticism from former colleagues for his role leading chants of “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton at campaign rallies, and also at the Republican convention in Cleveland just months before the election.

The hearing came as Mr Trump faced mounting scrutiny over the Russia probe and offshoots of the investigation, which he has repeatedly denounced as a “witch hunt”.

Democrats are preparing to take control of the House of Representatives in the new Congress in January. Control of the chamber will give them subpoena power, and many members want the party to launch multiple investigations into the president.

In another example of the mounting troubles facing the president, Michael Cohen, a former personal lawyer to Mr Trump who once said he would “take a bullet” for his boss, recently pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws with payments to keep two women from publicly claiming that they had sexual relationships with the president shortly after his marriage to his current wife Melania.

In a court document, Manhattan prosecutors said Cohen had acted “at the direction” of “Individual-1”, who was identified as Mr Trump.

Changed tack

Mr Trump originally denied paying any money to the women, but he has since changed tack to claim that the payments were not related to the campaign. Prosecutors said he and Cohen “sought to influence the election from the shadows” in making payments designed to protect his campaign from the claims.

While Cohen was charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, Mr Mueller has said that Cohen met his team seven times and provided information “core” to the Russia probe. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison last week, with the judge saying he had engaged in a “smorgasbord of fraudulent activity”, including lying to Congress.

Mr Mueller has also indicted a number of ex-Trump affiliates, including Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman who has pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion and money laundering that are unrelated to his role running the Trump campaign.

On Monday, the US justice department charged two of Mr Flynn’s former associates with illegal lobbying, in what prosecutors said was a scheme to exert pressure on the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in the US who has been accused by Turkey of masterminding an attempted coup in 2016. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018