WASHINGTON, Dec 19:The sentencing of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has been delayed on Tuesday until March of next year amid a possibility that he may receive a prison sentence.
US District Judge Emmet Sullivan decided to postpone Flynn’s sentencing for 90 days after the defense attorney made such a request, and said he would hold the next hearing with a status report on March 13, a Sputnik correspondent reported from the courthouse in Washington, DC. Flynn’s sentencing comes as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Trump-Russia collusion and allegations of Russia’s meddling during the 2016 US presidential election. Both Trump and Russian officials have repeatedly denied the allegations. Trump has called the investigation a political witch hunt that has not produced evidence of collusion in nearly two years. Russian officials have said the allegations were made up to excuse the loss of a presidential candidate as well as deflect public opinion from actual instances of election fraud and corruption. Flynn, one of the most high-profile suspects in the investigation led by Mueller, stands accused of lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak during the US presidential transition. CROWDS GATHER AT COURT FOR FLYNN SENTENCING Dozens of people started arriving at the US District Court for the District of Columbia to attend Flynn’s sentencing just hours before the scheduled court hearing, a Sputnik correspondent reported. Flynn supporters were present around the courthouse carrying banners saying “Free Flynn” and “We Stand With Flynn,” among others. Representatives of media outlets are were also present in large numbers. Two hours before the planned sentencing, the line of people wishing to attend the court hearing already extended outside the court building, while dozens were waiting in line inside. Flynn looked confident and concentrated, at times smiling at the crowd, and talked with his attorney at the beginning of the hearing. On Tuesday morning, US President Donald Trump wished good luck to his former National Security Advisor. White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an interview on Tuesday that it would be up to a court to decide if Flynn broke the law, but the White House believed that the FBI handled its questioning of Flynn improperly. Flynn pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak. Last week, Comey admitted that his decision to have agents interview Flynn at the White House was not the typical way the FBI would deal with a White House official. Comey told MSNBC that normally the interview is set up by the White House counsel, but he went directly to Flynn. US media has reported that Flynn’s legal team argued that the agents did not inform their client that it was a crime to lie to the FBI, and a judge ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller to turn over all documents related to Flynn’s questioning. SENTENCING HEARING
The hearing which was scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, started 12 minutes late amid a full court room. When the hearing began, Judge Sullivan said the Flynn case was unique. After taking an oath, Flynn answered several of the judge’s questions. Some of the questions directed at Flynn included whether he was aware that it was a federal crime to lie to the FBI, and that he did not challenge the circumstances under which the FBI interviewed him. Flynn answered positively when asked whether he was satisfied with his lawyers and said he understands the nature of the charges and does not want more time or speak with other lawyers to get a second opinion. When asked whether he wanted to withdraw his plea guilty, Flynn stated, “no.” “I would like to proceed,” Flynn said.
Flynn’s attorney stressed that his client accepts stands by the guilty plea. “We have no intention, the defendant has no intention to withdraw guilty plea,” the attorney said. Special Counsel Prosecutor Van Grack said that Flynn provided the vast majority of cooperation and potential benefit of that cooperation as well as substantial assistance to Eastern District of Virginia US Attorney’s Office in the indictment of Flyn’s business associate Bijan Kian. A US federal court in Virginia indicted Kian for acting as an agent of a foreign government and conspiring to get Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited from the United States to Turkey, the Washington Post reported on Monday. The report added that a Turkish businessman accused of paying Kian and Flynn is also named in the indictment, but is not in the United States. Turkey has accused Gulen, who has been living in the United States since 1999, of orchestrating a failed military coup on July 15, 2016. Gulen has repeatedly denied taking part in the coup. The prosecutor also said in the court hearing on Tuesday that the possibility remains Flynn will continue to cooperate with the Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. Judge Sullivan repeatedly asked Flynn whether the general wanted to proceed with the sentencing or to postpone it, adding that he cannot guarantee that Flynn will not receive a prison sentence. “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. This crime undermines everything that this flag stands for. Arguably you sold your country out,” Sullivan said. Sullivan pointed out that he would take into consideration Flynn’s 33 years of service for the United States and his cooperation with the Mueller’s investigation, but also the aggravated circumstances including lying to the FBI. Mueller’s team recommended that Flynn be given no sentence involving incarceration given Flynn’s substantial assistance in multiple investigations. On Tuesday, Flynn’s attorneys asked the judge to give their client probation not to exceed one year with minimal conditions of supervision and 200 hours of community service. The judge then asked Flynn if he wanted to postpone the sentencing in order to get full credit for his cooperation. From 12:04 p.m. until 12:30 p.m. Sullivan announced recess. FLYNN SENTENCING POSTPONED
After the recess, the hearing began with the judge correcting some of his statements made in the first part of the hearing. In particular, Sullivan said he was incorrect by saying Flynn acted as foreign agent in the White House and stressed that he did not suggest Flynn committed treason when he had asked the prosecutor whether Flynn’s conduct rises to the level of “treasonous activity.” “Don’t read too much into the question I ask,” Sullivan said. The prosecutor also said that the US government has no reason to believe that Flynn committed treason. The defense attorney emphasized that Flynn has cooperated with the Special Council and is prepared to continue that cooperation. He said Flynn has answered all their questions and “nothing has been held back.” Then the defense attorney asked the court to postpone Flynn’s sentencing, and it was agreed to hold the next hearing on March 13. Former federal prosecutor George Parry wrote on Tuesday that Flynn’s meeting with Kislyak was entirely legal and legitimate under US law, and that even without cooperating with Mueller he was never in danger of going to prison under the federal sentencing guidelines. Perry said the FBI knew the exact words spoken by Flynn to Kislyak given that US intelligence intercepted and recorded the conversations, and the agency had no real investigative purpose in having Flynn questioned about the talks with the Russian ambassador except to frame him.
The intercepts gave the FBI a way to set a trap for Flynn, who was then bankrupted as a result of being arrested and charged, Perry added.