Michael Flynn's lawyers offered 3 different versions of the same story as it became clear he could face significant jail time
- Lawyers representing Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, were forced to change their story surrounding Flynn's guilty plea when pressed on their previous statements during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
- First, Flynn's lawyers implied that he was entrapped by the FBI into pleading guilty.
- But during Tuesday's hearing, Flynn threw cold water on his own lawyers' claims, saying he was pleading guilty because he was, in fact, guilty.
- Flynn's lawyer was also forced to walk back his claims of entrapment when asked how such statements were consistent with Flynn accepting full responsibility for his actions.
- Eventually, after the judge overseeing the case expressed "disdain" and "disgust" at Flynn's crimes, his lawyers shifted course and asked for another delay in his sentencing, which was ultimately granted.
Tuesday marked yet another dramatic cliffhanger in the ongoing criminal case surrounding Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump.
Flynn pleaded guilty last December to one count of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then-Russia's ambassador to the US, during a December 2016 phone call. He has been cooperating with federal investigators since.After five delays in his sentencing, Flynn and his lawyers appeared in court Tuesday along with prosecutors working for the special counsel Robert Mueller for what was initially believed to be his final sentencing hearing.
But following a tense back-and-forth during which US District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn he "sold" his "country out" and speculated about whether Flynn could be charged with treason, Sullivan ultimately agreed to delay his sentencing until March after lawyers representing the government hinted that Flynn may cooperate further.
Flynn's lawyers, meanwhile, were forced to walk back several of their claims when Sullivan pressed them and it became clear that their client could face significant jail time for his actions.
Flynn's lawyers initially suggested he was entrapped by the FBI
Flynn's attorneys struck a defiant tone when they suggested in a sentencing memo last week that Flynn was trapped into pleading guilty to lying to the FBI last year.
Flynn "recognizes that his actions were wrong and he accepts full responsibility for them," they wrote. "There are, at the same time, some additional facts regarding the circumstances of the FBI interview" that are relevant to his sentencing, they added.Flynn's lawyers went on to point out that some aspects of Flynn's interview were handled by then-FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and then-FBI special agent Peter Strzok. Both men were ousted from the bureau earlier this year amid withering attacks from Trump and his allies about their objectivity and purported anti-Trump bias and corruption.
Moreover, Flynn's lawyers wrote that according to internal FBI records of the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials decided they "would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving warning might adversely affect the rapport."
They further noted that one FBI agent who participated in interviewing the former national security adviser noted he was "unguarded" and "clearly saw the FBI agents as allies."
The remarks appeared to play into Trump's claim that Flynn was duped into lying to agents.
Flynn's lawyers were forced to walk back their own claims when pressed
On Tuesday, Flynn debunked his attorneys' suggestions of entrapment when Sullivan pressed him about the facts surrounding his plea last year.
During the sentencing hearing, Sullivan asked Flynn whether he wanted to challenge the circumstances under which he was interviewed by the FBI.
"No, your honor," Flynn replied.Sullivan later gave Flynn another chance to withdraw his guilty plea if he felt he had been unfairly coaxed into it.
"I would like to proceed," Flynn said.
Asked whether he wished to proceed because he was guilty, Flynn said, "Yes, your honor."
Flynn also acknowledged that he "was aware" lying to the FBI was a crime at the time of his interview.
At one point, Sullivan asked one of Flynn's attorneys, Stephen Anthony, if the former national security adviser was "entrapped by the FBI."
"No, your honor," Anthony replied.
When Sullivan asked Flynn's lawyer how raising questions about the circumstances of Flynn's lies to the FBI squared with his acceptance of responsibility, Anthony walked back his earlier claims of entrapment, saying the decision to make those statements were his alone and not Flynn's.
Sensing that Flynn could face significant jail time, his lawyers requested another delay
Sullivan did not mince words when expressing his "disdain" for Flynn's actions during his sentencing hearing."This crime" that Flynn committed, lying to the FBI, "is very serious," he said.
"In the White House! In the West Wing!" Sullivan said, adding that Flynn "can't minimize" his "very serious offense."
"Arguably," Sullivan added, "you sold your country out."
Sullivan also asked the government whether Flynn could be charged under the Logan Act, and even whether he could face charges of treason. Prosecutors declined to broach that territory.
"I'm not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense," Sullivan said.
After the court returned from its recess a little after noon on Tuesday, Sullivan amended some of his comments, saying he was merely asking about treason, not implying that Flynn committed it.
Nonetheless, Flynn's lawyers requested another delay in his sentencing, which Sullivan granted.