Although Judge Emmet Sullivan ultimately ended the case, he lambasted the Justice Department.
A federal judge has closed the four-year-old criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, acknowledging the pardon that President Donald Trump issued last week to the only Trump administration official charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan — who’d been wrestling for months with a highly unusual request from Attorney General William Barr to drop the prosecution — said Tuesday that bid was rendered moot by Trump’s decision to grant Flynn a sweeping pardon for his alleged lies to the FBI and any other offenses he may have committed in connection with Mueller’s probe.
“The history of the Constitution, its structure, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the pardon power make clear that President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one,” Sullivan wrote in a 43-page opinion. “Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot.
Although Sullivan ultimately ended the case, he lambasted the Justice Department for what he said was a highly questionable, if not indefensible, decision to drop the charges against Flynn. Sullivan also asserted that judges have the power to reject the dismissal of charges in a criminal case when the government’s actions are called into question.
Sullivan declared that the explanations Barr offered through his deputies for the decision to abandon the case were “dubious to say the least” and would arguably overcome the long-held “presumption of regularity” that government officials are generally afforded by the courts.
Sullivan said many of the rationales offered by the government “appear pretextual, particularly in view of the surrounding circumstances.”
“For example, Mr. Flynn was serving as an adviser to President Trump’s transition team during the events that gave rise to the conviction here, and, as this case has progressed, President Trump has not hidden the extent of his interest in this case,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also noted that Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, had acknowledged conferring with Trump about the status of the case in the weeks preceding a September hearing.
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