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Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn
Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairmen of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees respectively, tore into President Trump after he announced a pardon for former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Schiff and Nadler, who played key roles in Trump's impeachment investigation in the House, both noted that Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors - a charge leveled in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe - and suggested the pardon marked an abuse of Trump's power.
"Donald Trump has abused the pardon power to reward his friends and political allies, and protect those who lie to cover up for him. This time, Trump has once again abused the pardon power to reward Michael Flynn, who chose loyalty to Trump over loyalty to his country," Schiff said in a statement.
"Flynn lied to the FBI about his communications with the Russians - efforts which undermined U.S. foreign policy after sanctions were imposed on Russia for interfering in our elections. And Flynn pled guilty to those lies, twice," he added. "A pardon by Trump does not erase that truth, no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise."
"This pardon is undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump's rapidly diminishing legacy," echoed Nadler.
The rebukes came minutes after Trump announced he was pardoning Flynn, a former three-star Army general who became a staunch ally and prominent figure during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
The announcement via tweet came after months of speculation that Trump would move to pardon his first national security adviser, who had pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly making false statements to the FBI as part of a cooperation deal announced in December 2017.
Flynn later worked to withdraw his guilty plea in January 2020 after changing his attorneys, and the Justice Department took the controversial step of looking to drop its charges against him.
His three-year legal case had since stalled as he awaited sentencing and as U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan mulled whether to grant the Justice Department's motion.
Nadler hinted the pardon was part of a plan by Trump to prevent Flynn from cooperating with federal investigators.
"It is important to talk about why the President pardoned Flynn. President Trump dangled this pardon to encourage Flynn to backtrack on his pledge to cooperate with federal investigators - cooperation that might have exposed the President's own wrongdoing. And it worked. Flynn broke his deal, recanted his plea, received the backing of the Attorney General over the objections of career prosecutors, and now has secured a pardon from the President of the United States," Nadler said.
Flynn is the second Trump associate in recent months to avoid potential jail time after the president commuted the three-year prison sentence of longtime GOP operative Roger Stone, who was set to head to prison over charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering.
Stone's sentence was commuted in July, right before he was scheduled to report to a federal corrections facility.
Trump this year has also commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and pardoned former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and financier Michael Milken.
The Flynn pardon is reportedly the first of several Trump is mulling before he leaves office.
"This pardon is part of a pattern. We saw it before, in the Roger Stone case - where President Trump granted clemency to protect an individual who might have implicated the President in criminal misconduct. We may see it again before President Trump finally leaves office. These actions are an abuse of power and fundamentally undermine the rule of law," said Nadler.