Justice Department moves to drop prosecution of Michael Flynn

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department moved Thursday to drop its prosecution of Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser and the only White House official charged during the Russia investigation, in a dramatic undoing of one of the most high-profile cases brought by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

In a motion filed by Timothy Shea, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, the Justice Department determined that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice.”

Flynn has been fighting to have his case dismissed even though he pleaded guilty more than two years ago to lying to investigators. His efforts to seek exoneration became a political rallying cry for Trump and his supporters.

“He was an innocent man,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after the Justice Department moved to drop the case. “Now in my book he’s an even greater warrior.”

Flynn’s efforts have been aided by Attorney General William Barr, a critic of the Russia investigation who took the unusual step of asking the U.S. attorney in St. Louis to review the case. The examination has produced new documents that Flynn’s allies have used to argue that he was mistreated.

The decision to drop the felony charge was revealed shortly after Brandon Van Grack, who helped lead the Flynn prosecution in Mueller’s office and still works at the Justice Department, abruptly withdrew from the case.

In February, several federal prosecutors withdrew from the case against Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to Trump who was convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress.

In that case, the prosecutors were protesting a Justice Department decision to disregard their request for a stiff sentence against Stone. Trump had publicly complained that their sentencing recommendation was too harsh, and the controversy raised questions about whether political considerations were having an improper effect on criminal cases.

Stone was eventually sentenced to 40 months in prison, but he has not yet been incarcerated and is appealing his conviction.

Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador shortly after the 2016 election, when Moscow was seeking relief from U.S. sanctions. A retired Army three-star general, he also admitted illegally lobbying for Turkey while he was a senior Trump campaign adviser in 2016. But he wasn’t charged for that as part of his plea deal with Mueller.

Flynn hasn’t served any time behind bars, and he’s been fighting to have his case dismissed by saying he was poorly served by his original legal team and framed by investigators. His lawyer also accuses Van Grack of improperly threatening to prosecute Flynn’s son, who worked for his father’s private consulting firm while it was lobbying for Turkey.

Despite Flynn’s previous admissions of guilt, he now says he didn’t lie.

Earlier this year, Barr asked the U.S. attorney in St. Louis to review the case against Flynn. New documents produced during the examination — some of which remain under seal — have fueled a campaign by Flynn’s allies in the Republican Party and conservative media to exonerate him.

Trump has also publicly mused about pardoning Flynn, even saying recently that he would consider him for another job in his administration.

“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” Trump tweeted on April 30.

Prosecutors had originally recommended probation for Flynn, but they later accused him of violating the terms of his plea agreement and urged U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to impose a six-month sentence, saying he “has behaved as though the law does not apply to him.”

Flynn was a well-regarded battlefield intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan before President Barack Obama elevated him to head the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012.

He was ousted from that job in 2014 for what Obama administration officials described as mismanagement, and he soon set up an international consulting firm. Flynn formed lucrative business relationships with Turks, Russians, U.S. companies and others, collecting large fees for speeches, lobbying and strategic advice.

He became one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in the 2016 campaign, winning notoriety for angry denunciations of Hillary Clinton at the Republican National Convention.

Trump appointed Flynn national security adviser shortly after the election, but he didn’t last long.

During the transition period, Flynn spoke several times with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador in Washington. At the time, Obama had imposed sanctions on Moscow as punishment for meddling in the election, including the hacking and release of thousands of Democratic Party emails.

Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations, and he was dismissed on Feb. 13, 2017, after less than a month on the job.

Prosecutors said Flynn also lied in an interview with FBI agents on Jan. 24, 2017, by saying sanctions were not discussed during his phone calls.

Flynn originally admitted to lying but recently said in a court filing that “I did not lie to them” and claimed the phone calls with Kislyak “are still events of which I do not have a clear memory.”

Trump later asked then-FBI Director James B. Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, according to Comey, who was fired three months later. Trump denied making the request.


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