The sentencing of US President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has been postponed after a stunning hearing in which the judge accused him of selling out his country.
District Judge Emmet Sullivan agreed Wednesday morning (Australian time) to delay the sentencing until next year so Flynn can continue co-operating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Lawyers for Flynn had asked District Judge Emmet Sullivan to postpone the sentencing.
The judge will hold a review conference in March.
The request came after Judge Sullivan warned Flynn that if he were sentenced as scheduled, he might not get all the credit for his co-operation with investigators that he is entitled to.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts.
Prosecutors had recommended no prison time, citing his co-operation.
But the judge’s rebuke raised the prospect that Flynn could get a harsher sentence.
Judge Sullivan earlier lashed out at Mr Trump’s first national security adviser, saying, “I can’t hide my disgust, my disdain” at his crime.
“Arguably you sold your country out,” he said.
Flynn, who served as national security adviser for only a few weeks, will be the first White House official sentenced in special counsel Mueller’s investigation into possible co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Flynn was met by protesters outside the court house, chanting “lock him up”, in a style reminiscent of Trump supporters’ election rally cry regarding Hillary Clinton.
The hearing took place amid escalating legal peril for the President, who was implicated by federal prosecutors in New York this month in hush-money payments to cover up extramarital affairs.
It also came as the Trump family’s charitable foundation agreed to close down while the President fights allegations he misused its assets for business and political purposes.
Nearly half a dozen former aides and advisers – including Flynn – have meanwhile pleaded guilty or agreed to co-operate with prosecutors in the Russia probe.
Mr Trump signalled his interest in the case by tweeting “good luck” to Flynn hours before the sentencing hearing.
The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case!…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2018
Judge Sullivan told Flynn he would take into account his extensive co-operation with the government, which includes 19 meetings with investigators as well as a 33-year military career that included service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But he also said he was forced to weigh other factors including Flynn’s decision as national security adviser to lie to the FBI on the premises of the White House about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador to the US.