- The Washington Times
Thursday, May 7, 2020

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.

Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

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.

Documents released last week raised questions about the government’s case against him. Among the revelations were documents showing the FBI had no evidence Flynn had committed wrongdoing.

Despite the lack of evidence, FBI officials went ahead with interviewing Flynn at the White House in January 2017.

Flynn’s statements during that meeting were the basis for his prosecution, but the Justice Department said Thursday in a court filing that there was “no basis” to conduct the interview.

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 Justice Department said Flynn’s false statements were not “material” to the Russia investigation that prompted the FBI to focus on the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general.

The federal judge overseeing the Flynn case will determine whether to dismiss the case.

Mr. Trump immediately embraced the Justice Department’s actions. He called Flynn, who was ousted from the administration, “a hero.”

“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.”

Mr. Trump blamed holdovers from the Obama administration for pursuing Flynn and allegations of collusion with Russia. He said “they should pay a big price.”

“The Obama administrationJustice Department was a disgrace, and they got caught. They got caught. Very dishonest people,” Mr. Trump said.

He said their actions amounted to “treason.”

The Justice Department threw in the towel in the Flynn case shortly after Brandon Van Grack, a former top Mueller prosecutor, withdrew from the case without explanation.

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.”

Veteran defense lawyer John Dowd, who represented the president during the Mueller probe, said he was “very happy” for Flynn and the president.

“The Department of Justice shines today,” Mr. Dowd said. “Integrity is back in the Department of Justice, thanks to Bill Barr. It’s a great, great day for the country.”

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.”

The documents released last week, which included an FBI document revealing the government had not uncovered any wrongdoing by Flynn, made Mr. Van Grack a target for conservatives.

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.

Then a handwritten note that surfaced last week suggested the FBI’s goal in interviewing Flynn was to get him to lie so he could be prosecuted or fired.

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.

A separate FBI document unsealed in the case revealed that the bureau was set to end its probe before interviewing Flynn.

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.

During the interview, Flynn told FBI officials that he had not discussed lifting Obama administration sanctions with the Russian ambassador, which was the basis for his prosecution for lying.

After pleading guilty, Flynn cooperated so extensively with the Mueller team that the investigators recommended that he receive a sentence of probation instead of prison.

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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