The Memo: Flynn case will become election issue

The prosecution of Michael Flynn has been dropped, but the use of his case as a political weapon looks sure to intensify.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE kept his rhetoric on the case red-hot in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s decision from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop the case against the retired Army general, who had pleaded guilty on two occasions to lying to the FBI.

The president blasted the people behind Flynn’s prosecution as “human scum” to reporters — terminology that has grown familiar from Trump’s mouth but would once have been a shocking thing for a commander in chief to say in apparent reference to members of the FBI.


There are now reports that people close to Trump are eager to see Flynn have some prominent role in the president’s reelection campaign. 

In Flynn’s previous endeavors in that capacity, he joined the crowd at the 2016 Republican National Convention in chants of “lock her up” aimed at Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Hillary Clinton tweets 'vote them out' after Senate GOP confirm Barrett CNN: Kayleigh McEnany praised Biden as 'man of the people' in 2015 MORE.

The use of the Flynn case — and perhaps Flynn himself — for political purposes could have clear utility for the Trump campaign for a simple reason. His status as a cause célèbre for the president’s base could drive enthusiasm and turnout, however strongly the pro-Flynn view of events is rejected by Democrats or sails over the head of less engaged voters. 

Flynn could be one arrow in a quiver of issues that appeals to the Trump base. Those issues are going to be all the more vital to a Trump campaign that has recently lost what was going to be its strongest card — the once-strong economy that has plunged off a cliff amid the coronavirus crisis.

Trump allies are now seeking to keep the issue of Flynn’s case alive and use it to cast aspersions on Democratic figures, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE.

Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, Trump’s reelection campaign manager, released a statement shortly after the DOJ’s decision contending that there had been a “weaponizing [of] the FBI” that had occurred “on Vice President Joe Biden’s watch” — that is, during former President Obama’s administration.


The Flynn case also reinvigorates the debate over former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation. Flynn’s initial guilty plea was an early big success for Mueller — whose efforts were derided by Trump and his allies. 

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day McCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments MORE (R-Ohio), one of the president’s most stalwart defenders in Congress and a frequent critic of the FBI’s actions, tweeted a clip of himself on Fox News on Friday, in which he claimed that “everything we learned this week confirms what we already knew.”

The Flynn matter also plays right into the overarching narrative of Trump’s populism, which holds that various elites are out to undermine him by nefarious means. 

Parscale’s statement on the case included the allegation that “the corrupt media will do its best to cover up this scandal.”

There are serious problems for the Trump side, however. 

One is the two guilty pleas by Flynn. It is tough to assert a person's innocence when they have twice pleaded guilty. 

And the case that Trump is being victimized by elites is hard to make while the attorney general of the United States, William BarrBill BarrPolice accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters Trump hasn't asked Barr to open investigation into Bidens, McEnany says Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money MORE, intervenes in cases to the benefit of Trump’s friends and allies.

In February, the Justice Department under Barr sparked another huge controversy when it undercut the recommendations of its own prosecutors and recommended a more lenient sentence for longtime Trump associate Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneTrump grants clemency to five nonviolent offenders Trump remarks put pressure on Barr DOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump MORE, who had been convicted of lying to investigators and obstructing a congressional investigation.

The decision by the Department of Justice to drop the case against Flynn is without any close precedent, however — and has engendered an irate response from Democrats. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMarijuana stocks see boost after Harris debate comments Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court MORE (D-N.Y.) blasted the move as “thoroughly corrupt.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIn our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Calif.) said Barr’s actions showed that “if you’re a friend of the president, then justice doesn’t apply to you.”

Figures from the legal world expressed similar horror.


Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. attorney appointed by Obama, tweeted on Friday, "Yesterday was a bad day for the rule of law & for our country. There are two kinds of justice in America now: the kind that is available for the president's friends & the kind that's available to the rest of us."

Matthew Miller, who served as a Department of Justice spokesman during Obama’s first term, drew a line connecting the Flynn and Stone cases, calling both together “an absolute travesty from an out-of-control Justice Department."

And former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump has list of top intelligence officials he'll fire if he wins reelection: report Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Trump remarks put pressure on Barr MORE was clearly alluding to the decision to drop the case when he tweeted on Thursday that the Justice Department “has lost its way.”

But in a nation where voters have increasingly chosen to don hyperpartisan uniforms, we can expect to hear plenty more about Flynn from the president and his allies in the months to come.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.