The sentencing hearing before Judge Sullivan in the case of Michael Flynn was weird beyond belief yesterday. Judge Sullivan came across as a loose cannon, sounding off like a barroom loudmouth vaguely aware of the relevant facts but not too careful about them. Byron York provides a good summary. In its editorial today (accessible here via Outline), the Wall Street Journal tactfully characterizes the hearing as a “fiasco.”
Flynn is a bit player the Russia hoax production. He is a casualty of the FBI investigation leading to the Mueller Switch Project. A former head of the Defense Intelligence, he has pleaded guilty to lying about the substance of his post-election conversation with the Russian ambassador. He may well be guilty of that and more. Reading the McCabe memo filed by the Special Counsel with the court last Friday, however, we see that Flynn believed that his conversations were probably intercepted and known to the FBI.
What we would like to know is whether Flynn lied to the FBI about these conversations. If so, why? If not, the judge won’t take his plea. Flynn is sticking with his guilty plea despite the issues he raised with it in his sentencing memo perhaps because he may be guilty and certainly because he wants the deal offered by the Special Counsel.
Judge Sullivan pressed Flynn on the truthfulness of his plea without exploring the nature of the deal of which it is the key part. Flynn appears to have pleaded guilty in part because of financial distress and in part out of desire to protect his son from charges. We would like to know what threats the Special Counsel raised with Flynn along these lines in negotiations with him.
We would also like to know how Flynn’s alleged misrepresentations could have been material in the FBI investigation when the FBI already had the conversations in hand. Reading the transcript of Comey’s testimony to the House Committees on Monday (here in the adjacent post), one might reasonably conclude that Flynn’s misrepresentations were not material. The key players at the FBI had another object in mind. The Logan Act pretense is a joke, as even Judge Sullivan appears to recognize.
Implying that he might not take the Special Counsel’s recommendation of no jail time, Judge Sullivan invited Flynn to postpone sentencing for another 90 days. It was an offer Flynn could not refuse. Those of us wondering what is happening here are left to wonder some more.
Following the hearing, Judge Sullivan imposed standard restrictions on defendant’s travel when defendant is released on his own recognizance. He ordered Flynn to stay within 50 miles of the District of Columbia unless he gets permission from the court. While approving Flynn’s already planned international travel, he also ordered Flynn to hand over his passport.
Ten parts are obviously not enough to bring this series to an end.