WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal appeals court on Wednesday dismissed the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in a 2-1 ruling that the Justice Department’s decision to terminate the case against Flynn settles the case, even though Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors in the special investigation of Robert Mueller, Russia.
U.S. district judge Emmet Sullivan had declined to dismiss the case immediately, but instead tried to judge the department’s unusual request for dismissal. He appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s position and to investigate whether Flynn could be criminalized for perjury.
Flynn was the only White House official indicted in Mueller’s investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI days after the president’s inauguration in January 2017 of talks he had had with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period.
The Justice Department rejected the case in May as part of a broader effort by Attorney General William Barr to investigate and even reverse some of the decisions he made during the Russia investigation, which he increasingly discredited.
In his motion, the department argued that Flynn’s calls to the Russian ambassador – discussing the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Russia for election interference – were appropriate and irrelevant to the underlying counter-intelligence investigation. The department also noted that the FBI had prepared weeks before the interview to close its investigation of Flynn after no evidence of a crime was found.
But retired judge John Gleeson, appointed by Sullivan, called the Justice Department’s request a “gross abuse” of the prosecution and accused the government of creating a pretext for the benefit of an ally of the president.
Wednesday’s 2-1 opinion was written by Judge Neomi Rao, an appointee Trump, and joined by Karen LeCraft Henderson, who raised skeptical questions to lawyers for Flynn and the Justice Department earlier this month.
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