Editor’s note: Read more about Flynn’s treatment at the hands of the FBI.
Tuesday, December 18 was supposed to be the day that Michael Flynn, former army general and former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, was sentenced for the alleged crime of lying to the FBI. What transpired at the hearing left just about everyone shaking their heads, though, and Flynn’s fate was postponed until sometime after March 13 of 2019 – the deadline for both defense and prosecution to file a status report.
… the judge appeared to turn on Flynn…
As if the case weren’t sufficiently bewildering, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan threw both sides a curveball, it seems. Having already leaned on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to provide documentation relevant to the January 2017 FBI interview of Flynn, the judge appeared to turn on Flynn himself during the hearing.
Flynn Judge Fumbles
In a display that confounded legal experts, the judge suggested that Flynn might have committed treason and further proposed that the general may have “sold out” his country by acting as the agent of a foreign power while serving in the White House. On both counts, Sullivan was entirely wrong.
As respected Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz points out, the United States Constitution strictly defines the act of treason and nothing Flynn has done comes even close to satisfying that definition. As for the accusation of acting as a foreign agent in the White House, the judge was referring to a contract Flynn’s company had with the Turkish government. Sullivan was forced to walk back his comments, however, after being advised that Flynn had already terminated his business relationship with the Turks before he was named national security advisor.
Sullivan has been less than satisfied with the conduct of both sides in this case. While his true thoughts about the charge against Flynn cannot be definitively stated, it would be fair to say that he may not be at all convinced that Flynn is guilty of the crime for which he faces sentencing. Despite his own guilty plea – which may have been made under the duress of facing much worse legal consequences – Flynn may not have lied to FBI agents at all. Indeed, the agents themselves claimed the general seemed very relaxed and willing to cooperate during his interview, and they further reported detecting no indications that Flynn had attempted to deceive them.
Former FBI Director James Comey himself told a congressional hearing that Flynn would likely not be charged for lying to the agents. Only after he was fired did Comey say his agents thought Flynn had lied to them – which, in itself, is another in a string of lies the disgraced director has told Congress and the American people.
It may also be that Sullivan was frustrated that Flynn did not withdraw his guilty plea, even after his legal team raised objections to the way FBI officials had allegedly sought to dissuade the general from bringing an attorney in on his original interview.
Whatever the motive for the somewhat unprecedented and improper performance, the Flynn case could now end in a number of different ways. It could eventually be decided by a different judge, it could still be thrown out altogether, or Flynn could be sentenced and have his legal team appeal. Additionally, of course, the president could pardon his former advisor. It is possible that Sullivan himself is merely giving Mueller’s case against Flynn enough time to unravel all by itself.
However it turns out, the general will likely never see the inside of a federal prison cell and, if he does, it will be for a very short period of time. The damage to his career, reputation, and family, on the other hand, will have a far deeper and longer-lasting effect. When all is said and done, then, the majority of Americans will be left wondering if it was worth all the time and taxpayer money that Robert Mueller and his band of hot-shot prosecutors spent on it.