President Donald Trump pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday and took direct aim in the last days of his administration at a Russia inquiry that he has long insisted was motivated by political bias.
“It is my great honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a full pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a really amazing Thanksgiving!”
It is my great honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has received full pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you are now getting a really amazing Thanksgiving!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2020
Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
The pardon invalidates the criminal case against Flynn, just as a federal judge was considering granting a Justice Department request to dismiss the indictment despite Flynn’s own guilty plea to lie to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
Other Trump staff in Russia pardoned
Flynn is the second Trump associate convicted in Russia’s probe to be pardoned by the president. Trump commuted the sentence from longtime confidant Roger Stone just days before he was due to report to jail. It is part of a broader attempt to undo the results of an investigation that for several years has overshadowed his administration and resulted in criminal cases against half a dozen employees.
The move, which comes when Trump is ending his only term, is likely to stimulate supporters who have raised the issue as a cause for celebrity and gathered around the retired Army Lieutenant General because the victim of what they claim is an unfair indictment.
Trump himself has repeatedly spoken highly of Flynn, although Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s prosecutor once praised him as a model collaborator in his investigation into the ties between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016.
The last step in a complicated case
The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns in the past year after the Department of Justice suddenly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should never have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, just to have the U.S. district. Justice Emmet Sullivan refuses the request and appoints a former judge to argue against the federal government’s position.
In recent months, a three-judge panel decision that Sullivan should dismiss the case was overturned by the full Board of Appeal, which returned the case to Sullivan.
At a hearing in September, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell told the judge she had discussed the Flynn case with Trump but also said she did not want forgiveness – probably because she wanted him to be justified in court.
Powell appeared separately in recent weeks as a public face for Trump’s efforts to undo the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but Trump’s legal team eventually distanced themselves from her after she made a series of unconfirmed conspiracy claims.
The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of a prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed if he had finally decided to reject the Justice Department’s request for dismissal. This request was made in May following an investigation into the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis, who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.
From cooperative to confrontational
Flynn was among the first of the president’s aides to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation and collaborated for several months. He provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors did not recommend any jail time and suggested that they be fine with probation.
But in the morning he would have been convicted, after a harsh reprimand for his behavior from Sullivan, Flynn asked that the hearing be shortened so that he could continue to cooperate and earn credit for a milder sentence.
After that, however, he hired new lawyers – including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation – who took a much more confrontational stance on the government.
Lawyers accused prosecutors of withholding documents and evidence they said were favorable to the case and repeatedly noted that one of the two agents who interviewed Flynn was fired from the FBI for sending derogatory text messages about Trump during the 2016 campaign.
( Jowharwith AP and AFP)