Watergate prosecutors request to weigh in on DOJ recommendation to drop Flynn case
Sixteen former Watergate prosecutors have asked a judge for permission to weigh in on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to drop charges against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The former prosecutors said that given the DOJ’s decision to dismiss Flynn’s criminal prosecution — despite his prior guilty pleas — the department cannot be counted on to give the court a fair and complete presentation of the issues raised by the move, according to a motion filed Monday and first obtained by CNN as well as by The Hill.
“The Court will not receive a full, fair, and adverse presentation of these issues from the parties in light of the government’s change in position,” wrote the former prosecutors, who argue that the court would benefit from hearing their unique perspective on the prosecution of high-level government officials.
The former prosecutors compared the case to Watergate, the criminal investigation that led to President Nixon’s resignation.
“The parallels and the contrasts between the Watergate affair and the present situation now before this Court make manifest that (we) have a direct and substantial interest in the proper disposition of the pending Motion directed by the incumbent Attorney General to protect a close ally of the President,” the prosecutors wrote in their statement of interest to the court.
On Wednesday morning, the judge issued an order that temporarily denied the group’s request to file its friend-of-the-court brief. Judge Emmet Sullivan added that he would provide a forthcoming schedule to govern when interested parties can submit filings. His order also rendered moot a previous filing by Flynn’s lawyers to block the group’s brief.
A spokesman for the former prosecutors said the brief would be filed on the schedule the judge sets.
Last week, Attorney General William Barr requested that the Justice Department drop the charges against Flynn of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia shortly before Trump took office.
The Watergate prosecutors said DOJ’s move raised concerns about whether its decision was taken in good faith, and even suggested the court may have grounds to reject Flynn’s dismissal. In their forthcoming brief, the group said, they plan to address “whether the Court should instead deny the motion and proceed to sentencing.”
The group’s court filing comes after Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, said Tuesday that he would allow third parties with “unique information or perspective” to weigh in on Michael Flynn’s case, delaying the efforts from the Justice Department to dismiss the charges.
The former prosecutors said in their motion that they offer a “unique perspective on the need for independent scrutiny and oversight to ensure that crucial decisions about prosecutions of high-ranking government officials are made in the public interest, are viewed as legitimate and are not subsequently reversed by political intervention.”
Flynn’s defense lawyers opposed the decision by Sullivan to continue hearing arguments.
“There are countless people — including former prosecutors on both sides of the parties — who would like to express their views, but there are many reasons there is no provision for outsiders to join a criminal case in this Court,” Flynn’s defense lawyers wrote in a motion Tuesday.
The former Watergate prosecutors who are included in the letter are Nick Akerman, Richard Ben-Veniste, Richard J. Davis, Carl B. Feldbaum, George T. Frampton Jr., Kenneth S. Geller, Gerald Goldman, Stephen E. Haberfeld, Henry L. Hecht, Paul R. Hoeber, Philip Allen Lacovara, Paul R. Michel, Robert L. Palmer, Frank Tuerkheimer, Jill Wine-Banks and Roger Witten.
They join almost 2,000 former Justice Department officials in raising the flag over Flynn’s case.
A spokesperson for Protect Democracy, the group who organized the letter from the former Justice Department officials, told CNN the group is filing a brief of their own in the case.
-Harper Neidig contributed to this report which was updated at 11:24 a.m.
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