Michael Flynn sentencing delayed

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4:02 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Judge walks back treason questions

(Bill Hennessy)
(Bill Hennessy)

Judge Emmet Sullivan started the second part of the proceedings by walking back some of his harshest comments. 

"I made a statement about Mr. Flynn acting as a foreign agent in the White House," he said. Sullivan added that he realized that was incorrect.

Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack said the foreign lobbying Flynn did ended before the Trump administration began.

Sullivan also walked back his treason questions. "I'm not suggesting" Flynn committed treason, Sullivan now said.

"I was just trying to determine the benefit and the generosity of the government," he said. "Don't read too much into the questions I ask."

Van Grack said Mueller's team has "no concern" or no reason to think Flynn committed treason.

12:46 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Court is back in session

The sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn has commenced after a short recess.

Judge Emmet Sullivan immediately informed the court he has more questions.

12:33 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Judge in Flynn case was appointed by Clinton to federal bench

Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is presiding over Michael Flynn's sentencing, was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton in 1994.

In 1984, President Reagan appointed him to the DC Superior Court, and in 1991 President George H.W. Bush appointed Sullivan to the DC Court of Appeals.

12:23 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

The mood inside the courtroom shifted during judge's treason questions

More than a dozen friends and family members were in the courtroom for Michael Flynn's sentencing.

Before the hearing, their mood was somewhat jovial. People were smiling and chatting. When Flynn walked into the courtroom, he greeted his family members with a smile, saying, “You made it!”

But the mood visibly shifted as the hearing progressed and things got much more serious, specifically when Judge Emmet Sullivan admonished Flynn for lying, saying he “arguably sold your country out” and brought up questions of treason.

Two of Flynn’s sisters sat with their fingers pressed upon their lips. Another member of the Flynn party tensely leaned forward to hear the answers when the judge asked prosecutors about whether Flynn’s actions were treasonous.

12:11 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Court is now in brief recess

Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan called a recess until 12:30 p.m. ET.

Before exiting the courtroom, Sullivan reminded Michael Flynn he can speak to his lawyers in a private conference room in the courtroom.

4:05 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Judge asks if Flynn's conduct is "treasonous activity"

(Bill Hennessy)
(Bill Hennessy)

Judge Emmet Sullivan asked in court today if Michael Flynn's conduct "rises to the level of treasonous activity?"

Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, speaking for the special counsel's office, said prosecutors did not consider charging Flynn with treason.

Then Sullivan asked again: "Could he have been charged with treason?”

Van Grack wouldn't go there.

12:03 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Judge blasts Flynn: "Arguably you sold your country out"

Judge Sullivan harshly admonished Michael Flynn for acting as unregistered agent while serving as the national security adviser, leaving open the possibility of jail time for Flynn.

“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. That undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably you sold your country out."

Sullivan says he could impose a sentence of incarceration.

"I am not hiding my disgust, my disdain for your criminal offense," Sullivan said, straining his voice and taking a brief pause. "Yes, your honor," Flynn said, though he was not asked a question.

4:08 p.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Judge to Flynn: "Not only did you lie to the FBI, you lied" to senior Trump officials

(Bill Hennessy)
(Bill Hennessy)

Michael Flynn returned to the podium with his lawyers after Judge Emmet Sullivan wanted to ask him a few more questions.

"I believe I understand that" there could be more cooperation needed from Flynn, Flynn said to the judge. He confirmed he's already done 19 interviews with investigators.

Sullivan noted that this circumstance today is rare — hearings like this during continuing cooperation are often sealed, or are put on pause until the cooperation is complete.

Having a sentencing today "is your prerogative, and only yours," Sullivan said. "If you want to postpone this ..." Sullivan suggested again.

"I want to be frank with you, this crime is very serious," Sullivan said.

If Sullivan sentences Flynn today, he can only take into consideration the cooperation up to this point. A sentence at a later date might be different if Flynn's cooperation continued, Sullivan said.

"The aggravating circumstances are serious. Not only did you lie to the FBI, you lied to senior officials in the incoming administration," Sullivan said.
11:56 a.m. ET, December 18, 2018

Former Mueller-team prosecutor: It "remains a possibility" that Flynn will continue to cooperate

Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack says "it remains a possibility that General Flynn is continuing to cooperate with the government."

Judge Sullivan had asked Van Grack if Flynn was still cooperating, and Van Grack took several seconds to give that response.

Typically, defendants in this sort of circumstance don't proceed to sentencing until their cooperation is complete, because judges want to be able to fully evaluate how they helped before they are.

"The more you assist the government the more you arguably help yourself at the time of sentencing," Sullivan says.

But Mueller's team and the Justice Department clearly have left the door open for Flynn to continuing to help.

Van Grack is explaining that Flynn by this point has given "substantial assistance." 

"The defendant had provided the vast majority of cooperation that could be considered," the former Mueller-team prosecutor tells the judge. 

For the first time: The special counsel also acknowledged Flynn’s role in the indictment of two Flynn associates related to their lobbying on behalf of Turkey. Flynn gave "substantial assistance" to the Eastern District of Virginia US Attorney's Office in the Kian indictment unsealed yesterday.

If he had not cooperated and admitted to lying about the Turkish lobbying, Flynn could have been charged in that Virginia federal criminal case, Van Grack said.