security

Michael Flynn: justice department moves to drop criminal case against ex-Trump aide – The Guardian


The US justice department on Thursday said it is dropping the criminal case against Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, abandoning a prosecution that became a rallying cry for the US president and his supporters in attacking the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.

The move was a stunning reversal for one of the signature cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. It came even though prosecutors for the past three years have maintained that Flynn lied to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Flynn himself admitted as much, pleading guilty before asking to withdraw the plea, and became a key cooperator for Mueller, the special counsel who investigated ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

On Thursday afternoon, the chairman of the House judiciary committee, Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, complained that the decision was “outrageous” and said he intended to call the attorney general, Bill Barr, to testify about the decision to drop Flynn’s case.

(((Rep. Nadler)))
(@RepJerryNadler)

This is outrageous!

Flynn PLEADED GUILTY to lying to investigators. The evidence against him is overwhelming. Now, a politicized DOJ is dropping the case.

The decision to overrule the special counsel is without precedent and warrants an immediate explanation.

1/2 https://t.co/MxRyWkCMPw


May 7, 2020

It was not immediately clear how the federal judge overseeing Flynn’s case would react to the DoJ’s motion to drop the case. Flynn had been awaiting sentencing, the date for which had been repeatedly postponed.

Julia E. Ainsley
(@JuliaEAinsley)

My big question is whether Judge Sullivan will agree to DOJ’s motion. This is the same judge who in 2018 hinted he may sentence Flynn with jail time, more than the prosecution was calling for at the time. Sentencing was delayed to give Flynn time to consider further cooperation.


May 7, 2020

However, at an event at the White House, Trump said: “What they did, what the Obama administration did, is unprecedented … and I hope a lot of people will pay a big price because they are dishonest, crooked people. They are scum, human scum.”

The president added: “He was targeted by the Obama administration, and he was targeted in order to try to take down a president.”

But Trump himself acknowledged in 2017 that Flynn had lied to the vice-president and the FBI about his interactions with the Russian ambassador to the US, prompting his ousting prior to prosecution.

Donald J. Trump
(@realDonaldTrump)

I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!


December 2, 2017

In court documents filed on Thursday, the DoJ said it was dropping the case “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information”.

The department said it had concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis”.

The US attorney reviewing the Flynn case, Jeff Jensen, recommended dropping the case to Barr last week and formalized the recommendation this week.

Also on Thursday, DoJ prosecutor Brandon Van Grack removed himself from the criminal case. In a court filing, he did not explain, but the action drew speculation that he opposed the DoJ decision.

The action comes amid an internal review into the handling of the case and an aggressive effort by Flynn’s lawyers to challenge the basis for the prosecution.

The lawyers cited newly disclosed FBI emails and notes last week to allege that Flynn was improperly trapped into lying when agents interviewed him at the White House days after Trump’s January 2017 inauguration. Though none of the documents appeared to undercut the central allegation that Flynn had lied to the FBI, Trump last week pronounced him “exonerated”.

The decision comes as Barr has increasingly challenged the Russia investigation, saying in a television interview last month that it was started “without any basis”. In February, he overruled a decision by prosecutors in the case of Roger Stone, another convicted former Trump adviser, in favor of a more lenient sentence for the self-proclaimed fixer for the Republicans.

Earlier this year, Barr appointed Jensen, the US attorney of St Louis to investigate the handling of Flynn’s case. As part of that process, the justice department gave Flynn’s attorneys a series of emails and notes, including one handwritten note from a senior FBI official that mapped out internal deliberations about the purpose of the Flynn interview: “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the official wrote.

Other documents show that the FBI had been prepared weeks before its interview of Flynn to drop its investigation into whether he was acting at the direction of Russia. Later that month, though, as the White House insisted that Flynn had never discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, FBI officials grew more concerned. The investigation remained open, and agents went to visit him in the White House on 24 January 2017.

Justice department officials visited the White House two days later to warn officials that they feared that Flynn was compromised and vulnerable to blackmail by Russia because of his account of what was said on the call. White House officials concluded that Flynn had lied to them and fired him.

Flynn pleaded guilty that December, among the first of the president’s aides to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign collaborated with Moscow during the 2016 election.

He acknowledged that he lied about his conversations with Kislyak, in which he encouraged Russia not to retaliate against the US for sanctions imposed by the Obama administration over election interference.

He provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors said he was entitled to a sentence of probation instead of prison.

As it turned out, that sentencing hearing was abruptly cut short after Flynn, facing a stern rebuke from US district judge Emmet Sullivan, asked to be able to continue cooperating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.

Since then, he has hired new attorneys.





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