Issued on: 07/05/2020 – 22:11Modified: 07/05/2020 – 22:11
The US Justice Department on Thursday abruptly withdrew its case against former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn following mounting pressure from President Donald Trump’s political allies on the right, handing the US president a major political victory.
The department said in a filing that Michael Flynn‘s December 2017 guilty plea for lying to the FBI over his Russia contacts was not significant to the case, and said the FBI’s original probe of him had no “legitimate investigative basis.”
The move comes as Flynn had been seeking to withdraw his 2017 guilty plea in which he admitted to lying about interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before Trump took office.
Flynn was one of several former Trump aides to plead guilty or be convicted at trial in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation that detailed Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election to boost Trump‘s candidacy as well as numerous contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
The sudden about-face is likely to raise new questions among Trump’s critics about the Justice Department’s interventions under Attorney General William Barr into high-profile criminal cases involving the president’s political allies.
Trump, in reacting to the Justice Department’s decision on Thursday, said he was very happy for Flynn.
A new appointment to review case
The decision to drop the charges comes less than three months after Barr named Jeffrey Jensen, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, to review the Justice Department’s handling of the case.
In a statement, Jensen said he had “concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case” and he had briefed Barr on these conclusions.
Trump fired Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser to the president during the 2016 campaign, as national security adviser after it emerged that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI about his dealings with Kislyak.
Switching lawyers and tactics
The president in March said he was strongly considering a full pardon for Flynn. He said the FBI and Justice Department had “destroyed” Flynn’s life and that of his family, and cited an unspecified report that they had lost records related to Flynn.
Flynn was supposed to help cooperate with prosecutors as part of his plea deal. But he later switched lawyers and tactics, arguing that prosecutors in the case had tricked him into lying about his December 2016 conversations with Kislyak.
The Justice Department had repeatedly denied allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, and US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected all of Flynn’s claims in December.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)