Justice Department dropping Michael Flynn’s Trump-Russia case
To the surprise of no one, Michael Flynn pleads the Fifth. Image via AP.

Michael Flynn
Democrats say decision shows politicization of Justice Department "knows no bounds."

In an abrupt about-face, the Justice Department on Thursday said it is dropping the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, abandoning a prosecution that became a rallying cry for the president and his supporters in attacking the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.

The action was a stunning reversal for one of the signature cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. It comes even though prosecutors for the past three years have maintained that Flynn lied to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Flynn himself admitted as much, pleading guilty before later asking to withdraw the plea, and he became a key cooperator for Mueller as the special counsel investigated ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 political campaign.

Thursday’s action was swiftly embraced by Trump, who has relentlessly tweeted about the “outrageous” case and last week pronounced Flynn “exonerated,” and it is likely to energize supporters of the president who have taken up the retired Army lieutenant general as a cause.

But it will also add to Democratic complaints that Attorney General William Barr is excessively loyal to the president, and could be a distraction for a Justice Department that for months has sought to focus on crimes arising from the coronavirus.

“Attorney General Barr’s politicization of justice knows no bounds,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. She accused Barr’s department of “dropping the case to continue to cover up for the president.”

Shortly before the filing was submitted, Brandon Van Grack, a Mueller team member and veteran prosecutor on the case, withdrew from the prosecution, a possible sign of disagreement with the decision.

After the Flynn announcement, Trump declared that his former aide had been “an innocent man” all along. He accused Obama administration officials of targeting Flynn and said, “I hope that a big price is going to be paid.” At one point he went further, saying of the effort investigating Flynn: “It’s treason. It’s treason.”

In court documents filed Thursday, the Justice Department said that after reviewing newly disclosed information and other materials, it agreed with Flynn’s lawyers that his interview with the FBI should never have taken place because his contacts with the Russian ambassador were “entirely appropriate.” The Flynn interview, the department said, was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”

The U.S. attorney reviewing the Flynn case, Jeff Jensen, formally recommended dropping it to Barr last week, the course of action vehemently and publicly recommended by Trump, who appointed Barr to head the Justice Department.

Barr has increasingly challenged the federal Trump-Russia investigation, saying in a television interview last month that it was started “without any basis.” In February, he overruled a decision by prosecutors in the case of Roger Stone, a longtime Trump friend and adviser, in favor of a more lenient recommended sentence.

Jensen said in a statement that he “briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed.”

The department’s action comes amid an internal review into the handling of the case and an aggressive effort by Flynn’s lawyers to challenge the basis for the prosecution. The lawyers cited newly disclosed FBI emails and notes last week to allege that Flynn was improperly trapped into lying when agents interviewed him at the White House days after Trump’s inauguration.

None of the documents appeared to undercut the central allegation that Flynn had misled the FBI.

Thursday’s filing was the latest dramatic development in a years-old case full of twists and turns. In recent months, Flynn’s attorneys have leveled a series of allegations about the FBI’s actions and asked to withdraw his guilty plea. A judge has rejected most of the claims and not ruled on others, including the bid to revoke the plea.

Earlier this year, Barr appointed Jensen, the top federal prosecutor in St. Louis to investigate the handling of Flynn’s case.

As part of that process, the Justice Department gave Flynn’s attorneys internal FBI correspondence, including one handwritten note from a senior FBI official that mapped out internal deliberations about the purpose of the Flynn interview: “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the official wrote.

Other documents show the FBI had been prepared weeks before its interview to drop its investigation into whether he was acting at the direction of Russia. Later that month, though, as the White House insisted that Flynn had never discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, FBI officials grew more concerned by Flynn’s conversations with the diplomat and kept the investigation open to question him about that. Two agents visited him at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017.

But Thursday’s filing, signed by District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Tim Shea, says the FBI had no basis to continue investigating Flynn after failing to find he had done anything illegal. It says there was nothing on his Russia calls “to indicate an inappropriate relationship between Mr. Flynn and a foreign power.” The department also contends Flynn’s answers during the interview were equivocal and indirect, rather than false, and weren’t relevant to the underlying investigation into whether the Trump campaign and Russia were illegally coordinating.

The memo also cites what it describes as internal uncertainty within the FBI over whether Flynn had lied, noting that the agents who interviewed him reported that he had a “very sure demeanor” and that-then FBI Director James Comey had said it was a “close” call.

In addition to Democratic lawmakers, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lambasted the new action. He said the FBI was obligated to interview Flynn “to better understand why he was talking to Russian officials.” Flynn’s lies, McCabe said, “added to our concerns about his relationship with the Russian government.”

Flynn pleaded guilty, among the first of the president’s aides to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation. He acknowledged that he lied about his conversations with Kislyak, in which he encouraged Russia not to escalate tensions with the U.S. over sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for election interference.

He provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors said he was entitled to a sentence of probation instead of prison.

However, his sentencing hearing was abruptly cut short after Flynn, facing a stern rebuke from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, asked to be able to continue cooperating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.

His then-attorneys pointedly noted in their sentencing memo that the FBI had not warned him that it was against the law to lie when they interviewed him.

He later hired new attorneys, including conservative commentator Sidney Powell, who have taken a far more confrontational stance to the government. The lawyers accused prosecutors of withholding documents and evidence they said was favorable to the case and have repeatedly noted that one of the two agents who interviewed Flynn was fired for having sent derogatory text messages about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Associated Press


6 comments

  • John

    May 7, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI along with being on the payroll of a foreign government. I hope the judge calls for a hearing to see why Barr is dropping charges.

    • gary

      May 8, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      Flynn plead guilty as a way to end it…. people do that all the time, plea to a lesser crime to get a shorter punishment. The plea was not related to Russia, the sole cause of the investigation. The whole thing was a conspiracy, and Obama and his lefty loons will all be in handcuffs soon! It’s amazing to me that the media has close to half of the country believing this bullshit! All because the demoRAT bitch did not win!

      • John

        May 8, 2020 at 9:36 pm

        Gary, If you care to do a little research, you will discover that Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI when asked if he spoke to any Russians. He spoke with Ambassador Kislyak. He also lied about being on the payroll of Turkey as an agent, while he was trump’s chief of staff. Judge Sullivan can call a hearing to ask why Barr is wanting to drop the case, but that doesn’t mean Flynn will get off. I suspect trump will continue to sully the office of the president and pardon the renegade general.

  • Andy

    May 8, 2020 at 5:57 am

    Add another nail to the death of our great country under this president. No regard for the rule of law, highest level of incompetence during this crisis, obstruction of justice, racism, payoffs to pawn stars, 36 people indicted from his campaign, economic collapse of our country, asking foreign leaders to get involved in our elections, impeached , wife cheater, not one piece of signature legislation in his 4 years, liar. Trust me I’m no lefty!!! I just love my country and everything it stands for!!! This is a disgrace!!!

    • gary

      May 8, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      Andy, you are brainwashed! Use your brain and think through the last 3.5 years! How do people like you even survive a day without being told what to think very moment!

  • chris safos

    May 8, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    we live in a corrupt judicial system controlled by money and politics

Comments are closed.


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