The Justice Department on Thursday dropped its criminal case against President Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a shocking reversal in one of the most high-profile cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
He was the first of the president’s inner circle to admit guilt and agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s search for Russian collusion until last summer, when he began a crusade to withdraw his guilty plea.
The Justice Department said the interview was “untethered,” “unjustified” and “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
“Indeed, the FBI itself had recognized that it lacked sufficient basis to sustain its initial counterintelligence investigation by seeking to close that very investigation without even an interview with Mr. Flynn,” the department wrote.
The federal judge overseeing the Flynn case will determine whether to dismiss the case.
“I’m very happy for Gen. Flynn. He was a great warrior, and he still is a great warrior,” the president said. “In my book, he’s an even greater warrior. … What happened to him should never happen again and what happened to this presidency.”
He said their actions amounted to “treason.”
He stepped away from the case after court documents cast doubt on his compliance with a court order to produce evidence that could vindicate Flynn.
The president’s allies long said the Flynn prosecution was politically motivated. Attorney General William P. Barr this year appointed Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney for St. Louis, to review the case.
Mr. Jensen recommended dropping the case.
“Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case,” Mr. Jensen said in a statement. “I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed.”
Mr. Dowd slammed the FBI and former Director James B. Comey.
“When people want to act corruptly and fraudulently and they catch you off guard, that’s what Director Comey did. Shame on him. He took advantage of a new administration,” he said. “President Trump was not a government man. He was a businessman. So they’re trying to get organized, and [the FBI] took advantage. It’s insidious, what he did.”
Democrats accused Mr. Barr of doing favors for the president.
“Today’s move is vastly more than a betrayal of U.S. law enforcement. William Barr has converted the Justice Department into Donald Trump’s personal law firm,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat. “For nearly a year, I have called for Barr’s impeachment and disbarment. But even achieving that, the damage to our justice system is incalculable.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrod Nadler, New York Democrat, called dropping charges against Flynn “outrageous.” He vowed to hold a hearing to question Mr. Barr.
“The evidence against Gen. Flynn is overwhelming,” he said. “He pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. And now a politicized and thoroughly corrupt Department of Justice is going to let the president’s crony simply walk away. Americans are right to be furious and worried about the continued erosion of our rule of law.”
In February 2018, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the Justice Department to turn over all evidence in its possession “that is favorable to defendant and material either to defendant’s guilt or punishment.”
Mr. Van Grack said in court filings that the government had fulfilled its obligation to give Flynn’s legal team exculpatory evidence.
Flynn switched legal teams last summer, and his new attorney, Sidney Powell, began questioning whether the Justice Department had complied with the order. She accused the government of misconduct by concealing exculpatory materials.
Mr. Van Grack denied the allegations in an October filing, saying the government met its “Brady” obligations to turn over information favorable to the defense.
It also suggested the FBI wanted Flynn to admit breaking the Logan Act, an obscure law from 1799 that bars private citizens from speaking with foreign governments, when he spoke with the Russian ambassador in late 2016 during the presidential transition.
FBI officials decided to close the case because they couldn’t find any wrongdoing. FBI agent Peter Strzok, who has a history of anti-Trump statements, pushed to keep the case open for three weeks before Flynn’s interview with FBI agents.
His sentencing hearing was pushed back in late 2018 after he asked a federal judge to allow him to continue his cooperation and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.
After that hearing, Flynn began to publicly question his decision to plead guilty.
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