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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 Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Judge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office Trump allies launching nonprofit focused on voter fraud MORE over the Justice Department’s decision to drop criminal charges against President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE's former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse to consider anti-Asian hate crimes bill, protections for pregnant workers this month A historic moment to truly honor mothers Britney Spears to discuss conservatorship in court 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 SchiffTrump backs Stefanik to replace Cheney Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama Senate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks 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.