Flynn Case Dismissal Reflects Trump Pressure, Ex-Judge Says
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department effort to drop the criminal case against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is the result of an improper pressure campaign by President Donald Trump, according to the retired federal judge assigned the task of arguing against dismissal.
The government’s attempt to walk away from the case after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents during the Russia probe “reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system,” former judge John Gleeson said in a brief filed Friday in Washington.
“In the United States, presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty --twice, before two different judges -- and whose guilt is obvious,” said Gleeson, who was named as a “friend of the court” to fight against the dismissal of the Flynn case.
Gleeson’s brief was requested by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who threw a wrench in the government’s plan to drop the case by making it clear he wouldn’t rubber stamp it. The Washington-based judge named Gleeson to provide an argument against dismissal. Sullivan also hired his own lawyer to fight for his right to decide the case after Flynn asked an appeals court to order the judge to grant dismissal -- an effort that Flynn ultimately lost.
Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, said in an emailed statement that Gleeson’s argument ignores extensive evidence undermining the prosecution uncovered by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen, who is leading an investigation into Flynn’s case. That probe revealed FBI errors and evidence that the agents who interviewed Flynn believed he was being truthful, she said.
“Gleeson’s filing was predictable and meaningless,” Powell said. “It’s the irrelevant and wrong smear he intended it to be -- ignoring the mountain of exculpatory evidence Mr. Jensen unearthed and produced that shows the investigation and prosecution of General Flynn was corrupt from its inception.”
The Department of Justice press office didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
No Rubber Stamp
Gleeson in June made his first argument against dismissal, urging Sullivan to sentence Flynn as originally planned. Flynn has attempted to withdraw his guilty plea and argues he was improperly pressured into admitting guilt when he’d done nothing wrong.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the case against Flynn as well as the underlying investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its efforts to help him win. The case has become a cause celebre among conservative commentators, who claim Flynn was unfairly targeted by holdovers from President Barack Obama’s administration.
The appeals court that last month rejected Flynn’s argument said the order he’d sought directing Sullivan to act is rarely used and only in circumstances where a petitioner has no other recourse. In Flynn’s case, Sullivan hasn’t yet held a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss the case, and Flynn can still appeal if it’s denied.
In a dissenting opinion in that ruling, Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, said Sullivan’s decision to scrutinize the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case is a “judicial usurpation of the executive power.”
Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department said in May it was dropping the case because it determined Flynn’s false statements weren’t “material” to the agents’ investigation into Russian interference in the election. It also said the FBI agents Flynn lied to essentially set him up to fail -- claims repeatedly echoed by Trump.
Gleeson’s brief pushes back on every aspect of the Justice Department’s characterization of the case, saying Flynn’s lies about his conversation’s with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office were clearly relevant to the evolving probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to help Trump win.
“Flynn lied about the nature and extent of his communications with a senior official of a hostile foreign power that had been sanctioned for interfering with the U.S. presidential election,” Gleeson said. “He lied to FBI agents carrying out the FBI’s general function of investigating potential threats to national security.”
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