Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has already pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes, though he expected the sentencing phase to go relatively smoothly. Both his defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed that Flynn -- a cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation -- should not face a prison sentence.
But the sentencing recommendations are really just advisory, and courts can go their own way. Today, the judge in Flynn's case examined his misdeeds and took the proceedings in an unexpected direction.
A federal judge, in a dramatic hearing on Tuesday, agreed to delay the sentencing hearing for former national security adviser Michael Flynn because he may be able to provide additional cooperation to federal investigators, and get credit for it.
Flynn was due to be sentenced for lying to the FBI last year about his contacts with Russian officials in the aftermath of the 2016 campaign as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.
But during Tuesday's hearing, Sullivan pulled few punches when it came to Flynn's conduct, saying he couldn't hide his "disgust" with the retired Army lieutenant general and questioned why he hadn't been charged with treason.
Sullivan, about whom conservatives had high hopes, told Flynn at one point, "Arguably, you sold your country out" by working as an unregistered foreign agent. The judge even broached the subject of "treason," though he later downplayed the comments.
Once it became clear that a prison sentence may very well be in Flynn's future, Donald Trump's former national security adviser and his attorneys asked to postpone the sentencing process. At this point, Flynn will try to provide additional information to federal investigators, in the hopes that additional cooperation will lead to a more favorable sentence.
More than a few Republicans have invested quite a bit of time and energy into the idea that Flynn's crimes were minor and inconsequential. The president himself said the retired general merely made "the smallest of misstatements."
The judge in this case took a good look at what Flynn did and came to a very different conclusion.