Top Democrat demands 'immediate explanation' from Barr after Flynn case dropped

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee demanded answers from Attorney General William BarrBill BarrThe enemy within: Now every day is Jan. 6 Dems worry they'll be boxed out without changes to filibuster, voting rules  This week: Democrats face crunch time on voting rights MORE over the Justice Department’s decision to drop criminal charges against President TrumpDonald TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE's former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerAndrew Cuomo attorney says AG investigation was 'shoddy,' outcome was 'predetermined' Democrats quietly explore barring Trump from office over Jan. 6  The Memo: Nation's racial reckoning plays out in 2021's big trials MORE (D-N.Y.) said the “outrageous” move called for an “immediate explanation.” He added that the House Judiciary Committee, which Nadler chairs, would summon Barr to the Capitol as soon as possible, after a March hearing with the attorney general was postponed due to the pandemic and said later in a statement he would ask the Inspector General to investigate.

“Rest assured, we are going to reschedule that hearing, ASAP, and demand answers!” Nadler said on Twitter.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday its intent to drop the criminal case against Flynn, who had previously pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during the presidential transition. Flynn later withdrew from his plea agreement.

Nadler said the DOJ’s move demonstrated the politicization of the top federal law enforcement agency under Trump. 

“Flynn PLEADED GUILTY to lying to investigators,” Nadler also said on Twitter. “The evidence against him is overwhelming. Now, a politicized DOJ is dropping the case.”

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The top Democrat followed up with a statement, calling the evidence against Flynn "overwhelming."

"A politicized and thoroughly corrupt Department of Justice is going to let the President’s crony simply walk away," Nadler said. "We are not supposed to get special treatment because we are friends with the President or refused to cooperate with federal investigators on his behalf. 

"The integrity of our criminal justice system is at stake, and the American people deserve answers," he added. "I will also ask the Inspector General for the Department of Justice to investigate this matter." 

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Overnight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests MORE (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the decision reflected “the worst politicization of the Justice Department in its history.”

“Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his illicit Russian contacts. His lies do not now become truths,” Schiff said in a tweet. “This dismissal does not exonerate him. But it does incriminate Bill Barr.”

In a court filing Thursday, the DOJ said newly uncovered FBI documents showed the investigation into Flynn was handled improperly and revealed that agents had misgivings about whether they believed Flynn had lied during his interview.

DOJ lawyers told the court that the FBI had initially moved to close the investigation in 2016 after finding a lack of evidence, but that the case remained open by mistake. 

Flynn would later provide agents a description of a conversation he had with a Russian diplomat in the weeks before Trump's inauguration that prosecutors considered to be false and misleading, leading to Flynn’s guilty plea.

Some legal experts expressed dismay over the department’s change in course.

“It is highly unusual to dismiss a case after a defendant has pleaded guilty in open court,” said Barbara McQuade, a law professor at Michigan University and former federal prosecutor. “There is nothing in the public record to justify this dismissal.” 

-- Updated at 4:59 p.m.

Harper Neidig contributed.