Ex-Trump aide Flynn faces sentencing
A US judge told President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn Tuesday that his acts bordered on treason and threatened the decorated former Marine general with a stiff prison sentence over his lying about his Russian contacts.
“You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president. Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for! Arguably, you sold your country out,” Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn.
Flynn was facing a standard sentence of zero to six months in prison for his ofense, and Russia collusion investigation head Robert Mueller had recommended no prison, based on Flynn’s cooperation with the probe and his long record of military service.
But Sullivan noted that Flynn had already avoided charges of violating laws on interference with US foreign policy and had skirted being included in Monday’s indictment of two Flynn business partners for illegally working for Turkey.
“I want to be frank with you, this crime is very serious,” Sullivan told Flynn.
“I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain.”
Flynn was one of the first to face charges in the sweeping Mueller investigation into possible collusion with Moscow in the 2016 election, reaching a plea deal announced just over one year ago.
It remains unknown what Flynn has told investigators about Trump, whom he served in the White House for just weeks in 2017 before resigning in the wake of scandal.
The former top aide was accused of hiding repeated contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States and conducting illegal paid lobbying for Turkey during the campaign.
Mueller filed a memo on how Flynn helped the investigation but it was heavily redacted — though did refer to 19 interviews he gave.
He likely contributed to a separate case unveiled Monday in which his former Turkish-American partner and a politically well-connected Turkish citizen were indicted over a 2016 scheme to get the US government to hand over dissident Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen to Ankara.
Trump has maintained that Flynn was illegally tricked by FBI agents into his alleged lies as part of a broader scheme to damage Trump’s presidency.
“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn,” the president tweeted early Tuesday.
“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. There was no Collusion!”
As a star Marine Flynn, 60, was credited for his battlefield intelligence operations and went on to become head of the powerful Defense Intelligence Agency.
But he spent just two years in the position before being removed in 2014 by then-president Barack Obama for mismanagement.
After that, he moved into politics on the far right and joined Trump’s election campaign as a senior advisor.
In July 2016 he spoke at the Republican convention where he led a now-iconic, rousing chant “lock her up” directed at Trump’s Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.
His being named as White House National Security Advisor after the election was strongly opposed by the US intelligence community, where he was seen as someone given to bizarre conspiracy theories and possibly compromised by the Russians.
He had been paid several times to join Russian company events, most notably in December 2015 when he sat next to President Vladimir Putin at a gala for the country’s state-run RT television.
In December 2016 he communicated numerous times with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington at the time, allegedly promising to lighten sanctions — a stance seen as undermining the policy of Obama, who was still president.
Revelations of those discussions led to Mueller’s probe of his actions.
Flynn may have angered investigators and the court last week when echoing one of Trump’s longstanding allegations, he suggested FBI agents tricked him into lying and alleged that the agents themselves had come under investigation.
Mueller’s team sharply rebuffed Flynn, releasing the record of the interview and saying there was “nothing” in the FBI’s actions that caused him to lie.