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OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19
© Aaron Schwartz

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE on Wednesday pardoned Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser who pleaded guilty to a charge in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Trump announced the decision in a tweet, saying he was honored to grant Flynn a “Full Pardon.” He congratulated his former national security adviser and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving. 

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An expected move: Trump’s decision to pardon Flynn, who was a top surrogate for his 2016 campaign, follows widespread speculation the president would do so and comes in the waning days of his term in the White House. Trump has refused to concede the election despite Joe Biden being projected the winner almost three weeks ago.

The move represents what is likely to be Trump’s closing broadside against the Russia investigation, which dogged his first two years in office and ensnared six of his associates including his campaign chairman and former personal attorney.

Background on the case: The move will bring an end to Flynn’s dramatic case, three years after he originally pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with the top Russian diplomat in the United States and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of willingly and knowingly making false statements to the FBI as part of a cooperation deal announced in December 2017.

Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea in January 2020, however, after changing his attorneys. The Department of Justice (DOJ) later took the extraordinary step of seeking to drop the charges against the former national security adviser, saying his false statements were not “material” to the investigation.

The case had stalled as Flynn was awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI. After a failed emergency appeal from Flynn’s legal team, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan had been weighing the question of whether to grant the Justice Department’s sudden motion to drop its charges.

The DOJ reversed course on the prosecution in May, arguing that it no longer had confidence in the FBI investigation that led to Flynn’s interrogation in early 2017. The decision intensified questions about political interference in prosecutorial matters, coming just a few months after the DOJ overruled career prosecutors who had recommended a lengthy prison sentence for another Trump ally, longtime GOP operative Roger Stone, who had just been convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

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Lawmakers lash out: Democrats reacted angrily to Trump’s decision to pardon Flynn. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) accused Trump of abusing his pardon power in granting clemency to Flynn and others who have connections to him.

“There is no doubt that a president has broad power to confer pardons, but when they are deployed to insulate himself, his family, and his associates from criminal investigation, it is a corruption of the Framer’s intent,” Schiff said in a statement.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) described the pardon as “undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump’s rapidly diminishing legacy.”

PENTAGON NIXES DINING HALLS FOR TROOPS’ ANNUAL THANKSGIVING MEAL: The Pentagon has sent nearly 51,000 pounds of roasted turkey to U.S. troops stationed overseas, albeit with a twist on how they will be served in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Thanksgiving meals will be switched to “grab-and-go style takeout instead of large group gatherings in dining facilities” to cut down on the spread of COVID-19, the Defense Department (DOD) said in a statement.

“The holidays will look quite different this year for everyone,” Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support head Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence said in the statement. “I’m proud that our workforce is doing everything possible to make sure our warfighters get a proper holiday meal, especially since many of us will not be able to be with our family and friends. We want to make sure they get that taste of home no matter where they are in the world.”

How much turkey?: The agency, which coordinates the holiday meal every year, delivered more than 250,000 pounds of traditional Thanksgiving food to service members stationed in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Korea, Japan, Qatar and Honduras, among other locations.

The breakdown includes 9,000 whole turkeys, 51,000 pounds of roasted turkeys, 74,000 pounds of beef, 21,000 pounds of ham, 67,000 pounds of shrimp, 16,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 19,000 pounds of pies and cakes and 7,000 gallons of eggnog.

Taking precautions: The switch from dining facility gatherings follows the Pentagon’s announcement that it will move to a higher health protection level on Nov. 26, cutting maximum occupancy in the building and increasing the number of temperature checks on workers entering the facility.

It also comes as the military is struggling to stem an increase of new coronavirus cases in its ranks.

The virus most recently has infected temporary Pentagon policy chief Brig Gen. Anthony Tata, and nearly 75,000 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed among members of the military. Tens of thousands more cases have been recorded among DOD family members, contractors and civilian personnel.

ICYMI

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