WASHINGTON (CBS News/CBSLA) — In a surprise development, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s sentence has been delayed after his lawyers took up Judge Emmet Sullivan on his repeated offers to do so. Flynn was in court in Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning to be sentenced for lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian Envoy Sergey Kislyak.
Judge Sullivan scheduled a status hearing for March 13. The delay will now give Flynn the opportunity to cooperate further with the government, especially given the harsh words Sullivan had for Flynn during the hearing. At one point, he wondered whether Flynn could be charged for treason.
“Arguably, you sold your country out. The court’s going to consider all that,” Judge Sullivan told Flynn. “But I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense.”
In Tuesday’s hearing, Sullivan asked Flynn a series of questions about his guilty plea before discussing his sentence, and he focused on a complaint raised by Flynn’s attorneys in their sentencing recommendation — that Flynn had not been notified that lying to the FBI is a crime prior to his January 2017 FBI interview.
“Do you challenge the circumstances by which you were interviewed by the FBI?” Sullivan asked him Tuesday. “No,” Flynn responded.
The judge asked Flynn whether he had been aware that lying to FBI was a crime.
“I was aware,” Flynn said.
“I’m going to be frank with you — this crime is very serious,” Sullivan told Flynn.
He noted that the crimes had been committed by a high-level security official, “in the West Wing” of the White House. The judge also said he would take Flynn’s 33 years of military service into consideration, but he expressed dismay that “all along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the United States.”
Sullivan was referring to Flynn’s links to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and his late registration as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.
In December of 2017, Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI. The special counsel’s office has recommended that Flynn receive zero to six months of incarceration due to his “substantial assistance” in the investigation. He met with the special counsel 19 times as part of his agreement to cooperate with the government in its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel says Flynn has been cooperating in “several ongoing investigations.” Flynn helped government investigators on a “range of issues, including interactions between individuals in the Presidential Transition Team and Russia.”
President Trump tweeted about Flynn’s sentencing Tuesday:
“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!”
This all comes after the Justice Department unsealed an indictment Monday which revealed that a 66-year-old San Juan Capistrano man — a Turkish national and business associate of Flynn — has been charged by federal prosecutors with working as an illegal agent on behalf of the Turkish government.
Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, was charged with conspiracy, acting in the United States as illegal agents of the government of Turkey, and making false statements to the FBI.
Also charged in the indictment was 41-year-old Kamil Ekim Alptekin of Istanbul.
According to the Justice Department, the two men attempted to “covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion” against a Turkish citizen. The Justice Department did not name the citizen, but it is believed to be the exiled imam Fethullah Gulen, CBS News reports.
Gulen lives in Pennsylvania as a political exile and has been blamed by Turkey for the failed coup attempt in July 2016 against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has been attempting to extradite Gulen ever since.
The indictment alleges the plot included using a company founded by Kian and an individual identified only as “Person A,” believed to be Flynn. The indictment notes that Kian was vice chairman of Flynn’s business group, the Flynn Intel Group, which is referred to in the indictment as Company A, CBS News reports.
Flynn is not identified by name anywhere in the indictment.
According to the indictment, the scheme included using a Dutch company owned by Alptekin to appear to be the “client” of Company A, and to pay the company’s fee of $600,000, which was to be paid in three installments. Alptekin allegedly made the payments from an account in Turkey.
If convicted, Rafiekian faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and 10 years in prison for the charge of acting as an agent of a foreign government.
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