Former Donald Trump administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is due back in court today for a hearing connected to his participation in the ongoing investigation into the Russia scandal being conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. This visit to court should be a quick in-and-out process for Flynn as he is only expected to appear and not provide testimony of any kind. According to court dockets, Flynn will appear before Judge Emmett Sullivan to begin a pre-sentencing report and to potentially schedule a hearing to schedule a sentencing hearing, possibly in August.
Flynn has remained out of prison to this point largely at the request of Mueller who has stated that so long as intelligence on the Russia scandal case that was provided by Flynn is still actively being used, and Flynn is continuing to co-operate, that he was not ready to refer Flynn for a sentencing hearing. This practice is not any different than would be found in any other ongoing investigation the scale of the Russia probe. Despite the recommendations made by Mueller, it will be up to Judge Sullivan to decide how matters will proceed.
The wrinkle in this hearing is in what was characterized on Vox, as a very unusual filing. Both Mueller’s team and Flynn’s attorneys submitted a joint filing to the court requesting that the pre-sentencing report be started, but to hold off on scheduling a sentencing hearing. That is the point that the request varies from the normal process, and where Judge Sullivan will have to decide if he feels the rationale provided for doing so makes legal sense.
One of the biggest questions is going to be, why the wait? Flynn struck a deal with Mueller in which he pleaded guilty over a year ago. While others have been heard and sentenced, or are currently awaiting a scheduled court date, Flynn remains free for the most part. It is a question that has been asked several times the past half year or so, and for Flynn, he has to want to get the sentencing hearing done before it completely bankrupts him to have his legal representatives on the clock working his case.
While there is always the slim possibility that this hearing is a signal that something is wrong, or perhaps Flynn will try to withdraw his guilty plea, the notion of that has been almost universally panned by all concerned parties and analysts. Other analysts, as detailed by The Washington Post, believe that this hearing actually signals Flynn and his legal team are still in lockstep with the Mueller investigation and that the joint filing is evidence that Mueller is trying to provide Flynn some relief.
And yet another angle being looked at is that Flynn’s attorneys requested that Judge Sullivan allow them to return on August 24, at which time they would update the judge regarding progress, and that by having the pre-sentencing report in hand, the process would move quicker at that point. Legal analysts point out that the sentencing hearing for most cooperating witnesses is postponed until they have testified to ensure that they continue to cooperate and have earned any leniency in sentencing due to them. That may signal that Mueller’s investigation is almost done with Flynn.