The federal judge handling Michael Flynn’s sentencing suggested on Tuesday that the former national security adviser’s actions might have risen to the level of treason, according to The Daily Beast.
“Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn. “Arguably, you sold your country out.”
The judge’s tongue-lashing added high drama to a proceeding that had been expected to be cut-and-dry because of Flynn’s plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Mueller’s endorsement of a no-jail sentence.
The first inkling that things might not go as planned came when Sullivan announced that he had concerns about the circumstances of the FBI interview in which Flynn admits he lied about his contacts with Russian officials—issues that Flynn’s lawyers also had raised in recent court filings.
Sullivan offered the option for Flynn to withdraw his guilty plea, according to The Daily Beast, or to delay his sentencing until his cooperation with investigators is complete.
But Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, told the court his client “stands by his guilty plea” and accepts “full responsibility” for lying to investigators and would keep his plea agreement with the special counsel.
The judge then moved on to deliver harsh criticism of Flynn’s criminal behavior, saying his lies to the FBI while a sitting member of the Trump administration were a “serious offense” and questioning whether his actions rose to the level of treason.
“I’m not going to hide my disgust, my disdain,” the judge said.
Then he asked Mueller’s prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, if Flynn’s actions rose to the level of treason.
“In terms of evidence, treason is not something we have considered,” Van Grack said.
The judge asked if a charge of treason could have been considered. After a long pause, Van Grack said he would not answer the hypothetical question.
It remains unclear what punishment Sullivan will impose: Though Mueller’s team supports a no-jail sentence, the final decision is up to the judge.
The Guardian reported later Tuesday afternoon that Flynn's sentencing will in fact be delayed until March:
Michael Flynn will learn his fate in March, after Judge Emmet Sullivan delayed Flynn’s sentencing hearing.
Sullivan suggested Flynn reconsider his request to be sentenced today and instead cooperate further with the special counsel – potentially earning a lesser punishment.