Marcy Wheeler has a good post about the significance of Emmet Sullivan’s comments yesterday, despite his unwise choice to invoke treason:
By yesterday morning, Emmet Sullivan probably became one of the few people outside Mueller’s team and his DOJ supervisors that understands the activities that Trump and his associates, including Flynn, engaged in from 2015 to 2017. He understands not just the significance of Flynn’s lies, but also how those lies tied to graft and conspiracy with foreign countries — countries including, but not limited to, Russia.
It should gravely worry the Trump people that Sullivan’s comments about whether Flynn’s behavior was treasonous came from someone who just read about what the Mueller investigation has discovered.
I remain frustrated that Sullivan raised treason at all yesterday, as I spend a great deal of time tamping down discussion of treason; none of the Trump flunkies’ actions that have been thus far revealed reach treason.
But I think I’m beginning to understand what a big deal it was for Flynn to continue to lie about his service for Turkey, even aside from the disgust I share with Sullivan that anyone would engage in such sleazy influence peddling while serving as a key foreign policy advisor for a guy running for President.
Flynn did a lot of really sleazy things. There was no discussion yesterday, for example, about how he gleefully worked on cashing in with nuclear deals even while Trump was being inaugurated. The public lacks both a full accounting of his sleazy actions and full understanding of their import for national security.
Mueller’s team thinks Flynn’s cooperation has been so valuable that it should wipe away most punishment for those sleazy actions. Emmet Sullivan, having read a great deal of secret information, is not so sure.
And the fact that Mueller thinks what Flynn provided was substantial enough to justify that level of consideration is also highly significant!
In related news, Ken White has an amusing piece about the dangers of getting high on Rupert Murdoch’s supply when crafting your legal strategy:
Flynn and his lawyers faced the same problem that has bedeviled Trump and Michael Cohen and Michael Avenatti and Paul Manafort and several other figures in this circus we call life after 2016: A muscular public-relations strategy is often a terrible litigation strategy. Time and again, these players have heard their public statements quoted back at them in court to undermine their legal positions. But Flynn’s error was even more grievous—he incorporated media spin into a sentencing brief.
Flynn’s lawyers argued in his brief that the FBI had wronged him: wronged him by discouraging him from having an attorney present during his interview, by failing to warn him that false statements during the interview would be a crime, and by not telling him that his answers were inconsistent with their evidence so that he could correct himself. The Flynn-as-Deep-State-victim narrative was pleasing to Trump partisans and Mueller foes, but suicidally provocative to a federal judge at sentencing.
Federal judges demand sincere acceptance of responsibility from people pleading guilty, especially when they’re cooperating with the government, and especially when they’re asking for a lenient sentence. Flynn’s sentencing arguments effectively told Sullivan that Flynn saw himself as a victim rather than a contrite wrongdoer. Sullivan seized ominously on that issue from the start of the hearing, interrogating Flynn’s attorneys about how their argument could be consistent with acceptance of responsibility. Eventually he forced Flynn and his attorneys to concede that they were not arguing that Flynn was entrapped or that his rights were violated, and made Flynn repeat several times that he had pleaded guilty because he was, in fact, guilty. Flynn was surprised, but criminal-defense attorneys weren’t: That’s what happens when you deflect blame at your own sentencing.