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US judge dismisses case against Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn. (Kristyn Ulanday/Defense Intelligence Agency)
December 08, 2020

A federal judge officially dismissed the case of former national security adviser and retired Army general Michael Flynn two weeks after President Donald Trump issued a full pardon for Flynn.

District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has been presiding over Flynn’s case, ruled on Tuesday to dismiss the case after the Nov. 25 pardon rendered it moot.

“President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one,” Sullivan wrote in his 43-page ruling. “Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot.”

“The pardon ‘does not, standing alone, render [Mr. Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation,'” Sullivan wrote. “A pardon does not necessarily render ‘innocent’ a defendant of any alleged violation of the law. Indeed, the Supreme Court has recognized that the acceptance of a pardon implies a ‘confession’ of guilt.”

After the ruling was announced, Trump tweeted, “Thank you and congratulations to General Flynn. He and his incredible family have suffered greatly!”

Months before Trump’s pardon, the Department of Justice had filed documents on May 7 moving to dismiss Flynn’s case “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information.” Sullivan rejected the dismissal and instead wanted to prolong legal proceedings to discuss the proposed dismissal. A 10-judge panel in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an 8-2 decision that Sullivan could proceed with a hearing to review the DOJ’s move to dismiss the case.

Flynn had pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2017, for providing a false statement to the FBI about his contact with Moscow’s then-ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislya, during President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign on which Flynn was an advisor. Flynn and his legal team maintain that the FBI ambushed him and tried to entrap him.

Internal FBI notes unsealed in late April suggest agents deliberated a “goal” of getting Flynn to lie during an interview that ultimately resulted in his firing from the White House and prosecuted by Robert Mueller’s special counsel team.

The notes, handwritten by the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap after a meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, suggest the FBI wanted to draw Flynn into a lie if they couldn’t get him to admit to a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids U.S. citizens from conducting foreign diplomacy without authorization.

Transcripts of Flynn’s calls with a Russian diplomat were declassified and released in June and showed no wrongdoing, according to Republican lawmakers, although Democrats maintain that he lied when discussing the call with the FBI.

Flynn had filed to withdraw his guilty plea last year, while arguing prosecutorial misconduct and accusing prosecutors of withholding information considered “favorable” to Flynn.

The DOJ contended in May that Flynn’s Jan. 24, 2017 interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis” and was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn.