| December 18, 2018 01:12 PM
Judge Emmet Sullivan’s extraordinary rebuke of Michael Flynn indicates that the former national security adviser has painful days ahead. But by suggesting to Flynn’s legal team that they ask for a sentencing delay, and then accepting that delay, Sullivan’s words might also indicate Flynn has given special counsel Robert Mueller little incriminating material on President Trump.
After all, had Flynn’s evidence provided a prosecution link to Trump or his inner circle, we might have expected Sullivan to treat the former national security more favorably.
That was most certainly not the case on Tuesday. Prior to accepting Flynn’s request for a sentencing delay, Sullivan asked prosecutors whether they had considered charging Flynn with treason. They said they had not. But the judge wasn’t stopping there. Flynn’s conduct, Sullivan said, filled him with disgust. He added, “You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president. Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out.”
Wow. While Sullivan then backtracked on his words, the judge knows the publicity of this case and its political importance. I therefore have little doubt that he had judicial grounds to motivate his rhetoric.
Again, however, if Flynn had provided some great value to Mueller, would Sullivan have been so harsh? Perhaps he would have, but I doubt it. As pertaining to plea deals such as Flynn’s, U.S. federal prosecutions are built on a system that is designed to balance leniency in return for evidence offered. In this case, Flynn’s evidence offered is supposed to be only peripherally linked to the indictment of two of his Turkey-lobbying business partners. While Flynn’s sentencing has now been delayed until March so as to offer his greater testimonial value to the government, that was not why Mueller suggested Flynn might be given a no-prison sentence. Again, the Turkey-lobbying business is peripheral to Mueller’s investigative remit: possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself.
That brings us to the many redactions in Mueller’s sentencing report on Flynn. They now suggest that there is far more damaging material pertaining to Flynn that is waiting to come to light here. I strongly suspect that this will involve documentation of Flynn’s effort to subvert U.S. national interests and federal law in order to serve aggressive Turkish government interests: specifically, Turkey’s interest in extracting exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, from the U.S. But Flynn’s record of erratic behavior indicates that his Turkish antics were born of arrogance and greed rather than treasonous intent.
Yet for Trump, Tuesday at least was not a bad day. Put simply, Sullivan strongly implied that whatever Mueller had got from Flynn was not enough to justify Flynn receiving a lenient sentence. He has delayed sentencing so as to give Flynn more time to help the government in order to help himself.