Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, appeared on Fox News Tuesday morning to play down the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser and the highest-ranking Trump aide to be sentenced in the Russia probe.
Schlapp told Fox’s audience that the charges against Flynn are mere “infractions,” not unlike “pulling off mattress tags, jaywalking, parking tickets,” according to a clip obtained by Media Matters.
“They’re finding anything they can ― anything they can ― to delve into these people’s careers, to kind of legally blackmail them into agreeing to some minimal crimes,” the conservative activist claimed.
Schlapp said prosecutors were “really charging” Flynn and Trump of treason but had “no proof.”
Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who once publicly called for Hillary Clinton’s incarceration, faces up to six months in prison for lying to federal investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. as Trump transitioned into office.
He pleaded guilty to the charges last year. Because he cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. election, Flynn is expected to receive minimal or no prison time.
Still, a judge who addressed the former adviser in court on Tuesday emphasized the gravity of his actions.
“I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said in Washington.
“This crime is very serious,” Sullivan said. The judge purposefully walked Flynn through a series of questions that left no doubt he was pleading guilty because he was actually guilty.
“Arguably, you sold your country out,” Sullivan told Flynn.
Although the judge asked whether the crimes could be considered treason, prosecutors declined to respond.
Flynn’s sentencing has been delayed until March.