Former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocrats make final plea for voting rights ahead of filibuster showdown Biden nominates Jane Hartley as ambassador to UK To boost economy and midterm outlook, Democrats must pass clean energy bill MORE in a private call with former members of his administration lambasted the Department of Justice's (DOJ) decision this week to drop the charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said in an audio clip that was obtained and released by Yahoo News.
“And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk," the former president said. "And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”
Several people confirmed the comments made on the call obtained by Yahoo News to The New York Times, with one person telling the paper that Obama was in “quite the mood.”
Obama mislabeled Flynn's charges; he wasn't charged with perjury but rather with lying to the FBI. Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to federal agents about conversations he’d had with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition.
But on Thursday, the DOJ moved to drop the charges against Flynn.
“I'm doing the law’s bidding. I’m doing my duty under the law, as I see it,” Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWilliam Barr's memoir set for release in early March The enemy within: Now every day is Jan. 6 Dems worry they'll be boxed out without changes to filibuster, voting rules MORE told CBS News in an interview Thursday. Barr dismissed the notion that he dropped the case at President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE's behest, though Trump called the attorney general “a man of unbelievable credibility and courage” following the decision.
Obama's comments are some of the harshest he's levied against the Trump administration, as the former president has for the most part remained tight-lipped about most of the administration's decisions.
On the private call, Obama also went after the White House's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"It would have been bad even with the best of governments," Obama said, referring to the pandemic that has killed 75,000 people in the U.S.
"It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' ... is operationalized in our government," he added.
The Hill has reached out to Obama's office for comment.