Washington, D.C. – This week, Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan stood against corruption and the nation’s drift toward nationalism when he ruled with profound authority in strong alignment with the rule of law and against the whims of the Trump Administration in two separate federal cases—this was not the first time Sullivan has ruled against the Trump administration.
Judge Sullivan is a graduate of Howard University where he earned both undergraduate and law degrees. He was appointed to serve as a Superior Court Judge in the District of Columbia by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. He was subsequently appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1992 to serve as an Associate Justice for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and in 1994, President Bill Clinton elevated Sullivan to the federal bench where he continues to serv as a justice in the Federal District Court of Washington, D.C.
With nearly 35 years on the bench, Sullivan does not hide his sentiments. On Monday, during the sentencing hearing of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Judge Sullivan railed against the hubris and illegal actions of the Trump sycophant turned FBI witness. “I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain, for this criminal offense,” he hurled at Flynn from the bench.
The Sentencing Hearing
Flynn’s continuing cooperation with the FBI had already led to the indictment of his two former business associates, Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin. The men were charged with illegally lobbying the US in efforts to extradite a cleric the Turkish government has claimed has seeded dissent in Turkey even though the FBI had already cleared the cleric of all charges levied against him. Due to Flynn’s cooperation with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 federal election, Flynn was not charged in the Turkey case.
Despite Flynn’s egregious actions in regard to Turkey which included a $600,000 payment from the Turkish government for acting as their agent and against U.S. interests, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller only charged him with lying to the FBI and recommended “no jail” time due to Flynn’s expansive cooperation in several investigations tied to Russian meddling and other related issues.
Judge Sullivan opened the sentencing hearing by making it clear he had zero tolerance for the sentencing recommendation submitted by Flynn’s attorneys who, like Mueller’s team advocated for no jail time despite their client’s guilty plea to one count of making false statements/lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late 2016.
Regardless of the Special Prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation, Sullivan could barely contain his contempt for Flynn’s illegal activities.
“You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the National Security Adviser to the president!” Sullivan raged. (Flynn had actually worked as an agent for Turkey while he served on as part of Trump’s transition team prior to the president-elect taking office in January 2017.)
Regardless of when Flynn served as an agent for Turkey, Sullivan’s sentiments on the issue were crystal clear, “Arguably, this undermines everything this flag over here stands for!” he declared pointing to the courtroom flag. “Arguably, you sold your country out!”
At one point during the back and forth between Flynn, his team and Justice Sullivan, the judge’s rhetoric caught fire and he questioned whether Flynn had in fact, committed treason. Though he later backed away from that comment, it was clear he had no tolerance for Flynn or his actions.
Flynn and his team were further rattled when the judge proclaimed, he could not promise them anything regarding whether Flynn will have to spend time in jail—a bright red flag that Flynn may be headed for jail.
Sullivan gave Flynn a choice—be sentenced immediately or continue cooperating with the Special Prosecutor and come back in 90 days. Flynn opted for the later. The judge subsequently set a future date, March 13, 2019, for a status hearing.
Protecting Asylum Seekers
Earlier this year, The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of a dozen asylum seekers. The individuals sought asylum in the U.S. because of the horrors they purportedly experienced in their countries. Although their stories were considered credible by asylum officials under Trump’s new guidelines these individuals did not meet the new criteria for what is considered—a credible fear of prosecution in their countries and were scheduled to be removed and returned to their countries under the expedited removal process.
On Wednesday, Judge Sullivan slammed President Trump’s restrictions on the ability of immigrants to request asylum for domestic and/or gang violence.
Sullivan struck down Trump’s asylum policies because, “there is no legal basis for an effective categorical ban on domestic violence and gang-related claims,” in relation to requests for asylum.
According to Sullivan, the Administration’s policies in this regard not only violated existing law, he called them “arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws.”
In Sullivan’s lengthy decision he adamantly declared in part, “it is the will of Congress — not the whims of the Executive—that determines the standard for expedited removal, the Court finds that those policies are unlawful.”
In a scathing and humbling defeat for the White House, Sullivan not only issued a permanent block and restricted the federal government from continuing to apply the asylum policy restrictions, it also bars the federal government from removing those seeking asylum who are already in the United States without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws.
Sullivan further ordered the Trump administration to immediately return to the United States anyone who was unlawfully deported under the new Trump Administration asylum policies and to provide these individuals with new credible fear determinations consistent with the nation’s immigration laws.
Responding to Sullivan’s ruling Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project noted, “This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers.”
According to Newell the government’s attack on asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent the nation’s historical commitment to protect immigrants seeking asylum as a matter of life or death.
He’s Ruled Against the Administration Before
Earlier this year in relation to the same case, Sullivan threw down the gauntlet to the Trump Administration when he angrily ordered a plane headed for Central America carrying an asylum-seeking mother and her young daughter to turn around mid-flight and return them to the U.S.
The judge’s bold actions in this regard did not end there. According to CBS news he also threatened that if the federal government refused to comply, “Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, III; Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Lee Francis Cissna; and Executive Office of Immigration Review Director James McHenry, preferably accompanied by their attorneys, shall be ordered to appear in Court to show cause as why they should not be held in Contempt of Court … ”
Although the plane was unable to turn around midflight, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the mother and daughter remained onboard when it touched down in El Salvador and were returned to the U.S. As a result of Sullivan’s ruling, the mother is continuing to seek asylum following the long-established court processes and procedures for asylum seekers.
On Friday, December 21, 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a judicial ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals against the administration’s new asylum policies. The 9th Circuit’s ruling on this issue mirrored the sentiment and rulings of Judge Sullivan on this issue.
CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law said of the Supreme Court decision, “It’s a major blow to the Trump administration and sends a strong signal that there are at least five justices who agree with the district court that the asylum ban exceeds the President’s statutory authority.”
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal justices and against the administration.