Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.
Just ask Michael Flynn.
President Trump’s first national security adviser will now have to wait several more months to find out whether he’s going to jail, following a judge’s decision in Tuesday’s fiery sentencing hearing.
Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, endured a contentious proceeding in which the judge challenged him on his guilty plea and questioned if his conduct rose “to the level of treasonous activity."
While awaiting his sentence, the 33-year Army veteran received a devastating 15-minute tongue lashing from the judge, who didn’t hide his “disgust” and “disdain” at Flynn’s behavior.
“Arguably, you sold your country out,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn from the bench.
The dramatic dressing-down on Tuesday morning follows a dizzying fall for Flynn, whose tenure as national security adviser was the shortest in American history, lasting only 24 days.
“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,” Sullivan said, according to CNN. “That undermines everything this flag over here stands for.”
Judge Sullivan also rebuffed the implication, made by Flynn’s lawyers shortly before his sentencing, that the FBI itself held some of the responsibility for Flynn’s ensnarement. Flynn’s team had said investigators hadn’t warned Flynn that lying to agents was a crime.
In a tense exchange, Judge Sullivan pushed Flynn over whether he really believed that he was guilty.
“I cannot recall any incident where the court has ever accepted the plea of someone who maintained he was not guilty,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan offered Flynn numerous opportunities to change his plea, but Flynn ultimately acknowledged his guilt, and asked that the process move forward.
"Because you're guilty of this offense," Sullivan asked.
"Yes, your honor," Flynn responded.
After a brief recess called by Flynn himself, his legal team returned to ask for a delay in sentencing to give him more time to continue cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.
Flynn, 59, faces up to six months in prison according to federal sentencing guidelines. But Special Counsel Robert Mueller has recommended Flynn serve little to no jail time thanks to his "substantial" assistance with the Russia probe.
Flynn sat for 19 interviews with Mueller’s investigators and other officials from the Department of Justice, for a combined total of 62 hours and 45 minutes. His attorneys said he also produced thousands of documents for the DOJ.
The day before Flynn’s sentencing, federal officials unsealed an indictment charging Flynn’s former business associates Bijan Rafiekian and Kamil Ekim Alptekin with conspiracy and lying to the FBI.
The indictment, which appears to refer to Flynn as “Person A,” recounts how the men engaged in a plot to drum up support for the extradition of dissident Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who now lives in the U.S.
Flynn wasn’t charged in connection with those activities, although in court filings, the Mueller team signaled that he lied to investigators about Turkey, too.
“The defendant made a second series of false statements to the DOJ concerning his contacts with the Republic of Turkey,” Mueller’s investigators wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
On Tuesday, Judge Sullivan noted that Flynn was still serving on the Trump campaign when he took part in the Turkey-related lobbying activities that he later lied about.
Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, has called Mueller’s handling of the matter strikingly lenient given the publicly known details of Flynn’s behavior.
On Tuesday, Flynn’s lawyers said they expect he’ll be called upon to testify in the case against his former business partners.
Trump wished his former national security adviser “good luck today in court” on Twitter before the sun rose over the capital Tuesday morning. Trump's been consistently sympathetic to Flynn, unlike his treatment of others in his orbit who've been cooperating with the special counsel.
Cover image: President Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, his attorney Robert Kelner and his wife Lori Andrade arrive at federal court in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)