Justice Department drops case against Michael Flynn
Washington — The Justice Department has moved to dismiss its criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.
In a motion filed in U.S. district court in Washington on Thursday, federal prosecutors asked a judge to toss out with prejudice the single count of making false statements to the FBI, saying that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice.”
The Justice Department said the government “concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation” and that “it is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis.”
In the motion, filed by Timothy Shea, the interim U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said the FBI offered “frail and shifting justifications” for its ongoing investigation of Flynn. Those justifications and the “irregular procedure” in the lead-up to his interview led prosecutors to believe that “the FBI was eager to interview Mr. Flynn irrespective of any underlying investigation,” according to the motion.
Just before the filing was made public, federal prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, who was a member of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, withdrew from Flynn’s case.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. The case against Flynn stemmed from Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election.
But in January, Flynn asked the court to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea, citing the government’s “bad faith, vindictiveness and breach of the plea agreement.” Flynn also accused federal prosecutors of refusing to comply with legal and ethical obligations.
The former national security adviser was set to be sentenced in February, but the hearing was canceled.
Mr. Trump has frequently come to Flynn’s defense, saying he was treated unfairly by federal prosecutors. In March, the president said he was “strongly considering” a pardon for Flynn.
During a meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott in the Oval Office on Thursday, Mr. Trump called Flynn an “innocent man.”
“Now in my book he’s an even greater warrior,” the president said. He lambasted Justice Department officials under former President Obama, calling them “human scum.”
Former FBI Director James Comey, who led the bureau during its investigation into Flynn and was fired by Mr. Trump in May 2017, said on Twitter that the Justice Department “has lost its way.”
“But, career people: please stay because America needs you. The country is hungry for honest, competent leadership,” he said.
The Justice Department’s request comes after recently unsealed notes from the FBI shed light on internal deliberations about the FBI’s investigation into Flynn. The filings included a single page of handwritten notes from January 24, 2017, the day Flynn was interviewed by the FBI at the White House, questioning whether the goal was “Truth/Admission” or “to get him to lie.” The author of the note is not identified.
The documents also include three pages of emails that detail discussions between former FBI Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
The FBI’s handling of Flynn’s case has come under scrutiny. Earlier this year, Attorney General William Barr asked the top federal prosecutor in Missouri, Jeffrey Jensen, to review Flynn’s case.
Jensen, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, said in a statement that “through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case.”
“I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed,” he said.
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