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Michael Flynn sentencing: Judge tells ex-Trump national security adviser ‘you sold your country out’ in hearing that ends with delay

Judge tells Flynn 'you sold your country out' during contentious hearing that ends with delay

Trump: FBI said Michael Flynn didn't lie

A judge has fiercely criticised Michael Flynn, Donald Trump‘s short-lived national security advisor, as he postponed his sentencing for lying to the FBI over contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan said Flynn had "arguably" sold out his country by lying to federal investigators in 2017, adding, "All along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Adviser to the President of the United States."

The sentencing was postponed pending a status report in March, despite Special Counsel Robert Mueller suggesting Flynn receive little to no jail time due to his cooperation in the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of the sentencing of Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn after he admitted lying to the FBI over contact with Russia during the presidential transition.

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The former general, 60, plead guilty to lying to the FBI on 24 January 2017 - four days after Mr Trump's inauguration - over calls he had had with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, a month earlier, understood to relate to sanctions imposed by the outgoing Obama administration and how Moscow might respond.

His lobbying work in Turkey was also under scrutiny, as were discussions he had with Mr Kislyak and officials from other countries about an impending vote on a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Mr Flynn was subsequently fired for misleading vice-president Mike Pence on the issue, his tenure in his new job lasting just 24 days, making history as the shortest ever served by a national security adviser.

Although he could face up to six months in jail, he is not expected to be sent to prison at today's sentencing hearing as special counsel Robert Mueller reports Mr Flynn has since co-operated fully with prosecutors investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

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Last night, Mr Mueller published portions of the FBI’s interviews with Mr Flynn at the request of the judge hearing the case after the Trump camp alleged the bureau had sought to entrap him.

Mr Flynn's lawyers suggested that investigators discouraged him from having an attorney present during the interview at the start of last year and never informed him it was a crime to lie.

Prosecutors shot back, “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth. The defendant undoubtedly was aware, in light of his 'many years' working with the FBI, that lying to the FBI carries serious consequences.”

The defendant's lawyers also insinuated that Mr Flynn deserves credit for not publicly seizing on the fact that FBI officials involved in the investigation later came under scrutiny themselves. Former deputy director Andrew McCabe, who contacted him to arrange the interview, was fired this year for what the Justice Department said was a lack of candor over a news media leak.

Peter Strzok, one of the two agents who interviewed Michael Flynn, was removed from Robert Mueller's team and later fired for trading anti-Trump texts with another FBI official. 

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Here's The Independent's Andrew Buncombe with a full report on last night's development.

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The filing of the memo came on the day two of Mr Flynn’s business associates from the Flynn Intel Group, the intelligence company he founded after leaving the military, were charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey as part of a campaign to pressure Washington to expel Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin were accused in an indictment of conspiring to “covertly and unlawfully” influence US public opinion and politicians, while concealing the fact that the Turkish government was controlling their work.

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Here's The Independent's Chris Stevenson with some analysis on the speed with which Mr Mueller is racing co-operating witnesses through to sentencing, from George Papadopoulos to Michael Cohen.

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And here's Chris again on the dangerous game the president is playing in trying to ignore Mr Mueller's pursuit of his associates.

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Today's hearing will take place at the US District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington at 11am EST (or 4pm GMT).

Judge Emmet Sullivan will oversee today's proceedings. He sat in judgement of the Justice Department's botched prosecution of now-deceased Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, initially indicted on corruption charges.

He dismissed that case after prosecutors admitted they withheld exculpatory evidence, prompting the judge to say that in nearly 25 years on the bench, "I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I've seen in this case." 

In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal last year, Mr Sullivan said the case inspired him to explicitly remind prosecutors in every criminal case before him of their obligation to provide defendants with favorable evidence. He says he has encouraged colleagues to do the same. 

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For his part, President Trump has made no secret that he regards Mr Mueller's investigation into his campaign as a "witch hunt" and has continued to lash out at prosecutors he sees as biased against him and those who help them.

He's shown continued sympathy for Mr Flynn, however, calling him a "great person" and asserting erroneously last week that the FBI said he didn't lie. A huge contrast to his treatment of Michael Cohen, whom he has dismissed bitterly as a turncoat and a "rat".

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New York attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by President Trump in 2017 after refusing a request by then-attorney general that Jeff Sessions he and 45 other Obama-era legislators resign, makes his feelings on today's sentencing abundantly clear.

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