A federal judge on Tuesday again delayed the sentencing of Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security advisor and the only former White House official charged in the sprawling Russia investigation.
The retired Army lieutenant general appeared in court for the first time since he pleaded guilty on Dec. 1 to one count of lying to federal agents about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.
Flynn was charged as part of the probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into whether an illegal conspiracy existed between Trump’s allies and Russian authorities to influence the 2016 election.
Tuesday’s hearing provided no hints about the direction of the Mueller probe, which has produced criminal charges against 20 individuals since last fall. Mueller has not signaled whether he is close to wrapping up his investigation, as Trump’s lawyers and supporters have demanded.
As part of Flynn’s plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and his sentencing has been delayed. The special counsel’s office and Flynn’s lawyers recently asked the probation office to prepare a pre-sentence report, a standard step that normally involves an investigation into a convicted criminal’s background to document extenuating circumstances that might lessen the sentence, or a criminal history to justify a heavier sentence.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called for the hearing to determine why the court shouldn’t follow its standard practice of preparing a report and scheduling a sentencing date at the same time. The probation office is already overworked, Sullivan said Tuesday.
Flynn’s lawyers and prosecutors agreed to delay preparation of the pre-sentence report, although Flynn's lead attorney, Robert Kelner, emphasized that he hopes to move quickly toward resolution.
"Gen. Flynn is eager to proceed ... when that is possible," he told the judge.
Flynn, a career Army intelligence officer, was fired as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration. He was a prominent Trump supporter during the 2016 campaign.
He served only 24 days as national security advisor in the White House early last year before he was forced out for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador in Washington.
In the seven months since Flynn pleaded guilty, it’s unclear what assistance he’s provided to prosecutors. The special counsel’s office has not cited him as a witness in court papers so far.
But it’s clear prosecutors believed he could be valuable enough to cut him a more favorable deal. In his plea agreement, he admitted to acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey, a federal crime, but he wasn’t charged with the violation.
Flynn is not the only person from Trump’s team who agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office. Rick Gates, the Trump campaign’s former deputy chairman, pleaded guilty in February. His sentencing has not been scheduled.
George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 7. He pleaded guilty last year to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Russians.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is scheduled to go on trial in northern Virginia on July 25 for financial crimes related to his lobbying work before he joined Trump’s team.