Judge rips Flynn, asks about treason ahead of sentencing for lying to FBI

WASHINGTON ― Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and prominent campaign supporter, was set for sentencing on Tuesday for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential transition.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, was an early supporter of the Trump campaign, and infamously called for the incarceration of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington.

Flynn, who came under scrutiny for a variety of potential criminal activities, reached a plea deal in December 2017 with the special counsel team led by Robert Mueller in which he agreed to cooperate and admitted making fraudulent statements in an interview with FBI agents at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017. Flynn stepped down as national security adviser in mid-February 2017, less than a month into the Trump presidency, because the White House says he misled officials there about his contacts with the Russians.

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Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (L) arrives for a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn arrives for a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is escorted into a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017.
Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn arrives for a plea hearing at U.S. District Court, where he?s expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Michael Flynn (L), former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives for his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives for his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A man protests outside as Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, arrives at Federal Court December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared in court Friday after being charged with lying over his Russian contacts, as part of the FBI's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Michael Flynn (L), former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives for his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, arrives at Federal Court December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared in court Friday after being charged with lying over his Russian contacts, as part of the FBI's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Security stand outside after Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, arrived at Federal Court December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared in court Friday after being charged with lying over his Russian contacts, as part of the FBI's probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Flynn’s plea deal prevented his prosecution on a host of other potential charges. One example: An indictment against Flynn’s former business partner at The Flynn Group, Bijan Kian, was unsealed on Monday, the day before Flynn’s sentencing. That indictment, which refers to Flynn as “Person A,” says that Kian and Flynn worked together on an illegal campaign to do the bidding of the Turkish government, which was seeking to extradite a cleric living in the United States that Turkish government accused of instigating a failed coup in 2016.

Flynn’s attorneys had argued for leniency ahead of his sentencing. Mueller’s team indicated it was open to a sentence in the range of zero to six months, but encouraged the court to reject Flynn’s “attempt to minimize” the seriousness of his crime.

“A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents,” Mueller’s team wrote on Friday. “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth.”

Sullivan unloaded on Flynn ahead of imposing his sentence, going through a number of procedural steps to make sure that Flynn was pleading guilty because he was guilty and not for any other reason. He seemed frustrated with many of the arguments from Flynn’s team that he suggested took away from Flynn’s supposed acceptance of responsibility for his crime.

Sullivan had Flynn admit, once again, that he had lied to the FBI and was pleading guilty because he was guilty. He gave Flynn ample opportunity to back out of his guilty plea, discussed with the prosecution the variety of other crimes Flynn could have faced, and said Flynn’s criminal exposure would have been “significant” had be been charged with the other offenses.

“This crime is very serious,” Sullivan said, noting that Flynn lied “In the White House! In the West Wing!” Flynn shouldn’t “minimize” his “very serious” offense, Sullivan said.

“Arguably, you sold your country out,” Sullivan told Flynn. He then asked the government whether undermining U.S. sanctions against Russia for their interference in the 2016 election could be considered treason, a suggestion the government didn’t want to weigh in on.

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