Perspective | Yes, Flynn pushed his luck. But the judge’s real rebuke was of Mueller.
Sweetheart deals don’t usually happen in federal courtrooms, and U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan sure didn’t like it that such a deal presented itself in his on Tuesday when he was set to sentence Michael Flynn. It may have looked as if the judge rebuked only Flynn when he delayed the sentencing after interrogating him about what he called treasonous behavior. But the judge also delivered a stinging, silent rebuke to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The judge indicated that he felt Flynn’s criminal conduct was more egregious than the false-statement charge to which he pleaded guilty. Yes, Flynn is cooperating in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but apparently not enough for him to walk free, in the judge’s view. A judge is permitted to consider charged conduct and relevant conduct in such a deal, and here he seemed moved by the uncharged conduct relating to Flynn’s secret, well-compensated lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey while he served as the Trump campaign’s primary national security adviser. Any cooperation agreement can require a delicate choreography among judge, prosecutor and defendant. That is particularly so when it appears that the prosecutor and defendant collaborate to usurp the judge’s discretion in sentencing. And that’s what happened when the special counsel’s office agreed to let Flynn plead guilty solely to a false-statements charge when he had engaged in more serious offenses.