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Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Lawyers for former national security advisor Michael Flynn asked a federal judge to delay his sentencing until his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's team is complete — setting the next status report on his sentencing for March 13 — during a heated appearance in D.C. federal court on Tuesday.

The big picture: Earlier this month, Mueller recommended no prison time for Flynn, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump’s inauguration, because of his "substantial assistance" to Mueller's investigation.

Details: During the hearing, Flynn refused an opportunity provided by Judge Emmet Sullivan to withdraw his guilty plea after his attorneys claimed in their own sentencing memo filed last week that he was misled about the circumstances of his 2017 interview with the FBI. Flynn instead told the judge he was "aware" that lying to the FBI was a crime.

  • A prosecutor on Mueller's team told Sullivan that it "remains a possibility" that Flynn is still working with the special counsel's investigation, though he has provided the "vast majority" of his cooperation.
  • Sullivan blasted Flynn from the bench during the hearing: "This is a very serious offense. A high-ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while on the physical premises of the White House." He later admonished him for his lobbying work for Turkey, saying, "Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out." Sullivan also asked the prosecutor whether they had considered charging Flynn with treason.
  • The hearing took an unexpected 25-minute recess after Flynn requested time to speak to his attorney following Sullivan's heated remarks.

After the recess, Sullivan said he "felt terrible" about his testy remarks about Flynn's work with Turkey, which he clarified ended before Flynn became Trump's national security adviser. He added, "I'm not suggesting he committed treason. ... Don’t read too much into the questions I asked."

Go deeper: Mueller investigation releases redacted Michael Flynn interview notes

Go deeper

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.

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