“Could he have been charged with treason?” Judge has strong words for former NSA Flynn

Judge Sullivan walked his comments back, but Michael Flynn, spooked, had his lawyers request to delay his sentencing anyway.

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High drama overtook a Washington, DC, federal courtroom on Tuesday morning as General Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former security adviser, was given an extraordinary dressing-down by a federal judge for his behaviour.

Prosecutors had requested that Flynn not be given jail time due to his “substantial cooperation” with the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But in court on Tuesday for his sentencing hearing, judge Emmet Sullivan, who was first nominated to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan, ripped into Flynn, saying: “You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Adviser to the president,” continuing, “arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out.”

“I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain, for this criminal offence,” Sullivan said, adding that he couldn’t rule out jail time even despite the prosecutors’ request. He even went so far as to ask prosecutors if they considered charging Flynn with treason – an extraordinary and unexpected twist that Trumpworld had clearly not been prepared for:

When he returned after a brief recess, Sullivan took a slightly more conciliatory tone, but still, Flynn was chastised enough to ask his lawyers to request that his sentencing be postponed to allow for more cooperation with investigators.

Flynn is most famous as having led the crowd in a chant of “lock her up” – talking about Hillary Clinton – at the Republican National Convention in 2016. But he was quickly forced to resign as National Security Advisor to the president in the early days of the administration after it became clear that he had lied to the FBI about some of his meetings during the campaign with Russian officials.

What enraged Judge Sullivan may have been a little trick his lawyers attempted, in implying in a recent filing that Flynn had been coerced by the FBI in some way. If so, it backfired drastically. This incredible dressing-down makes it really difficult to argue, as Fox News and other reliable administration defenders – as well as the president himself – have been doing, that the Mueller investigation is just a “witch hunt”.

And there was one more bitter sting in the tail:

Nicky Woolf is the editor of New Statesman America. He has formerly written for the Guardian and the New Statesman. He tweets @NickyWoolf.