Trump celebrates ruling on Flynn case
President Trump on Wednesday celebrated a federal appeals court ruling that ordered a judge to allow the Justice Department to drop charges against his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
“Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request To Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn!” Trump tweeted shortly after the ruling was made public.
Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request To Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2020
Trump later suggested that former FBI Director James Comey and other former officials should “apologize” to Flynn “for what they have done to ruin his life.”
A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the case against Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The court in a 2-1 decision ruled that Sullivan did not have sufficient reason to question the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) prosecution of the case.
“In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power,” Judge Neomi Rao, a recent appointee to the court by Trump, wrote in the majority opinion.
Flynn was among six Trump campaign associates charged in the course of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the only one to have served in the White House.
Flynn sought to withdraw his guilty plea earlier this year and the Justice Department in a highly unusual move sought to drop charges against Flynn in May, arguing that the former Trump adviser’s lies were not “material” to the investigation and that it could no longer prove its case. The development was widely scrutinized and triggered concerns among critics about the politicization of the DOJ under Trump.
Sullivan declined to immediately approve the Justice Department’s request and instead tapped a former federal judge to weigh in on the decision. That individual, former U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, called the move “highly irregular” and recommended that Sullivan reject DOJ’s motion to drop the case.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. regarding sanctions, agreeing to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation. He moved to withdraw his plea in January, arguing he was the victim of prosecutorial misconduct after hiring a new legal team.
Trump has long accused the FBI of targeting his campaign out of political motivations and claimed Flynn and other associates swept up in the Mueller investigation were mistreated.
Trump and other conservatives seized on interview notes released in April that showed FBI agents discussing how to approach Flynn’s interview and asking whether the goal was to “get him to lie.” Former prosecutors described such discussions as routine, however.
“I think he’s a fine man. I think it’s terrible what [the FBI] did to him,” Trump said in April, before the DOJ moved to drop the case against his former adviser. Trump also said he would be open to bringing Flynn back into the administration in some capacity. Flynn was ousted by Trump in February 2017, after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russian diplomat.
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