A federal judge dismissed a criminal case against Michael Flynn on Tuesday, weeks after President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser on charges stemming from the special counsel’s investigation.
The ruling from Judge Emmet Sullivan formally ends Flynn’s three-year legal saga, which began with a plea deal the retired Army general entered on Dec. 1, 2017 in the special counsel’s probe of foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Sullivan had for months resisted the Justice Department’s efforts to toss out Flynn’s case.
Attorney General William Barr, who spearheaded the effort to drop charges against Flynn, had said in interviews that he believed that the FBI under James Comey had set a “perjury trap” for Flynn during an interview which led to his plea deal.
Sullivan recently filed an appeal to the federal appeals court to force the Justice Department to turn over evidence supporting its motion to drop the case against Flynn.
Sullivan said in a 43-page ruling that he would likely not have approved a Justice Department motion to withdraw charges against Flynn if not for the Trump pardon. He also asserted that clemency for Flynn did not indicate that he was innocent of charges in his criminal case.
“President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one. Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot,” Sullivan wrote.
Sullivan quoted a ruling in another case to say that the pardon does not by itself “render [Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation.”
Trump issued a broad pardon for Flynn on Nov. 25, saying that he was wrongfully targeted in the special counsel’s investigation.
In the pardon order, Trump said that Flynn could not face criminal liability for any crimes investigated by the special counsel’s office, or grand juries in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. The order seemingly protects Flynn from prosecution for lobbying work he did in 2016 for the Turkish government.
Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017 to making false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017, regarding conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
After reaffirming his guilty plea on Dec. 18, 2018, Flynn began the process of withdrawing from his plea agreement.
On Jan. 29, 2020, Flynn filed a declaration saying that he did not intentionally lie to the FBI and that he regretted entering a plea agreement with the special counsel’s team.
Attorney General William Barr appointed a U.S. attorney to review the Justice Department and FBI investigation of Flynn. The prosecutor, Jeffrey Jensen, discovered numerous FBI documents that provided insight into the bureau’s investigation of Flynn.
One document showed that the FBI planned to close a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn on Jan. 4, 2017. The FBI opened an investigation against Flynn and other Trump campaign advisers in August 2016 as part of Crossfire Hurricane.
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