Once Federal District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he was not “hiding [his] disgust” with the alleged criminal actions of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, mainstream media was assured a big day of Trump-bashing.
But media outlets piled on even as the hearing appeared to be much more about heat than light.
“The hearing underscored the gravity of the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the enormous consequences for those ensnared in it,” wrote Sharon LaFraniere and Adam Goldman of the New York Times under the headline, “’Not Hiding My Disgust’: Judge Rebukes Flynn, Then Delays Sentencing.”
The judge “left no doubt that he viewed Mr. Flynn’s crimes as serious enough to warrant prison time despite a recommendation from prosecutors that the receive a lenient sentence,” they wrote.
“How exactly Mr. Flynn’s lies hampered the special counsel’s inquiry into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election remained, for now, unclear. So did the precise reasons he lied.”
“As Mr. Flynn left the federal courthouse, he faced a divided and raucous crowd in which some people yelled, “USA,” while others chanted, “Lock him up.”
It took “a full eight minutes” for Judge Sullivan to “read aloud an inventory of Michael Flynn’s lies – describing his ‘disgust’ that President Trump’s national security adviser sought to deceive FBI agents while ‘on the premises of the White House,’” wrote Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post under the headline, “’I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain’: Veteran judge upends hopes of Trump allies as he spotlights Flynn’s misdeeds.”
No one expected these outbursts from the bench – in which the judge asked at one point if Flynn could be charged with treason and at another insisted falsely Flynn had “sold your country out” by advocating for Turkey while working in the Trump White House – Flynn had completed his work for Turkey before accepting the White House position, the judge would later acknowledge.
The Post mocked those who expected a different outcome.
“This was not how Flynn’s supporters or Trump thought Tuesday’s sentencing hearing would unfold,” Leonnig and Helderman wrote. “They had pinned their hopes on Sullivan, an independent-minded jurist with a history of ferreting out prosecutorial misconduct, as the one who would reveal overreach by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the FBI. Some Flynn allies even speculated the judge might toss out Flynn’s guilty plea and clear his name.
“Instead, the 71-year-old veteran jurist used his platform to puncture conspiracy theories that paint Flynn as a victim of deep-state persecution. And he reminded the country of a few simple creeds commonly held in courthouses but increasingly dismissed by the president’s allies: Lying to the FBI is against the law. Breaking the law is bad. People who work in the White House are supposed to be held to a higher standard.”
Sullivan’s “angry lecture from the bench,” the Post wrote, “… served as a reminder of the seriousness of the allegations that launched the special counsel investigation” and “was in keeping with Sullivan’s lack of tolerance for official misconduct,” the Post wrote.