A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday directed a federal judge to drop the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn as demanded by the Justice Department, preventing a judicial review of the propriety of the request.
In a split decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration in preventing U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan from exercising his discretion on whether to grant the department’s motion to clear Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty.
President Trump immediately celebrated the ruling, after tweeting regularly about the case and not ruling out a pardon for his former advisor. ‘Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request To Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn!’ Trump tweeted Wednesday.
The ruling marks the latest development in an extraordinary case, where the government suddenly changed its posture in May after an intervention by the Justice Department overseen by Attorney General Bill Barr.
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals directed the judge overseeing the case of President Donald Trump’s former adviser Michael Flynn to drop the case, after the Justice Department switched its position
Barr, a Trump loyalist, has been taking a broader look at the Russia probe and has brought in a federal prosecutor to investigate alleged FBI misconduct.
Flynn had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. The conversations related to sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia in its final days in an effort to punish Moscow’s interference in the 2016 elections.
Flynn met agents following Trump’s inauguration during his tenure as national security advisor, which lasted only 24 days. Investigators at the time were probing Russian election interference and any coordination with Trump campaign advisors.
Flynn cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe after he was charged, then changed lawyers and took on an aggressive posture blasting the government’s case.
The Justice Department now says there was an inadequate basis to pursue charges. The government also noted that weeks before agents met with Flynn inside the White House, the FBI was preparing to close its investigation of Flynn.
Ordinarily it would be a defendant in a case who would be able to seek an en banc appeal of the entire D.C. Circuit in the case of an adverse ruling.
In the current case, both Flynn’s lawyers and the government are aligned.
Judge Sullivan ‘fails to justify the district court’s unprecedented intrusions on individual liberty and the Executive’s charging authority,’ according to the decision authored by D.C. Circuit judge Neomi Rao, a Donald Trump appointee. The panel concluded Judge Sullivan didn’t have sufficient grounds to challenge the government’s 180 turnaround.
Judge Sullivan did not immediately accept the Justice Department’s decision. Instead, he asked retired judge John Gleeson to serve as a ‘friend of the court.’
Gleeson wrote that the decision to dismiss was ‘based solely on the fact that Flynn is a political ally of President Trump.’
‘Even recognizing that the Government is entitled to deference in assessing the strength of its case, these claims are not credible,’ Gleeson continued. ‘Indeed, they are preposterous,’ he added.