A federal judge has lashed out at Donald Trump’s first national security adviser during his sentencing hearing, saying “I can’t hide my disgust, my disdain” at his crime of lying to the FBI.
“Arguably you sold your country out,” US District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Michael Flynn in a tongue-lashing that raised the prospect that the judge could send the retired Army lieutenant general to prison, even though prosecutors have recommended against prison time, citing his co-operation in the Russia probe.
Flynn, who served as national security adviser for only a few weeks, is to be the first White House official sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The hearing is taking place amid escalating legal peril for the president, who was implicated by federal prosecutors in New York this month in hush-money payments to cover up extramarital affairs.
Nearly half a dozen former aides and advisers — including Flynn — have pleaded guilty or agreed to co-operate with prosecutors.
Mr Trump signaled his interest in the case by tweeting “good luck” to Flynn hours before the sentencing.
He added: “Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!”
Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn. Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2018
Judge Sullivan told Flynn he would take into account his extensive co-operation with the government, which includes 19 meetings with investigators as well as a 33-year military career that included service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But he also said he was forced to weigh other factors including Flynn’s decision as national security adviser to lie to the FBI on the premises of the White House about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador to the US.
The judge warned Flynn he may not get full credit for his co-operation if he is sentenced as scheduled on Tuesday since prosecutors said there is a possibility they may call on him to assist with other investigations.
Typically, judges like to sentence co-operating defendants after their co-operation is done so they can fully evaluate the help they gave to the government.