Read: A surge in foreign-influence prosecutions
In a sentencing memo filed last week, Flynn’s lawyers, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony, indicated that the FBI agents who interviewed the former national-security adviser in January 2017 about his conversations with the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak had entrapped him, lulled him into a false sense of security, and failed to insist that he have a lawyer present for the interview.
Judge Emmet Sullivan, however, who was set to issue Flynn’s sentence on Monday, was not sympathetic. “How is raising these points consistent with accepting responsibility?” he asked Flynn and his lawyers as they stood before him at the lectern on Tuesday. He then lambasted Flynn for lying to federal agents on White House grounds while serving as the president’s top national-security adviser in January 2017, and for lying about his lobbying work for the Turkish government. “Arguably, you sold out your country,” Sullivan said. He added that while he would take Flynn’s 33-year public-service career and cooperation into account when sentencing him, he would not try to hide his “disdain” and “disgust” for Flynn’s crimes, and asked the government at one point whether Flynn’s conduct rose to the level of treason.
Flynn’s lies to the FBI were brazen, according to a summary of the agents’ interview with him last January that was released on Monday night. The summary, known as a 302, reveals that Flynn falsely stated that he did not recall discussing with Kislyak the Obama administration’s new sanctions, expulsion of diplomats, and shuttering of Russian compounds in response to Moscow’s election interference. Flynn also falsely claimed that he did not learn about the Obama administration’s actions against Russia until later, because he was vacationing in the Dominican Republic on December 28 when the executive order was signed.
What he did not tell the agents, however, was that when he and Kislyak spoke on December 29, it was after Flynn had already discussed how to respond to the new sanctions with his deputy, K. T. McFarland, who was at Mar-a-Lago with Trump at the time. The transition team determined that the sanctions could have a negative effect on the incoming Trump administration’s foreign-policy goals, so Flynn asked Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation until Trump took office. Flynn also failed to tell the FBI that Kislyak called again on December 31 to inform him that Russia had decided not to retaliate at Flynn’s request.
Additionally, Flynn falsely stated that he had called Russia, along with other countries, on December 22, 2016, only as part of a drill “to see who the administration could reach in a crisis” and to “get a sense” of where they stood on an impending United Nations vote on Israeli settlements, rather than to swing those votes. He did not tell the FBI, moreover, that Kislyak called Flynn again on December 23 and said that Russia would vote to condemn the settlements.