The move was a staggering reversal in one of the signature cases brought in by special counsel Robert Mueller. This has happened even though prosecutors over the past three years have argued that Flynn had lied to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Flynn himself admitted this, pleading guilty before requesting the withdrawal of the plea, and became one of the main collaborators of Mueller, the special advocate who investigated the ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Speaker of the House Judicial Committee Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York, complained Thursday afternoon that the decision was “outrageous” and said he intended to call the Attorney General , Bill Barr, to testify to the decision to drop the Flynn case. .
It was not immediately clear how the federal judge overseeing the Flynn case would respond to the DoJ’s request to drop the case. Flynn was awaiting a conviction, the date of which had been postponed several times.
However, at an event in the White House, Trump said, “What they did, what the Obama administration did, is unprecedented … and I hope many people will pay the price, because they are dishonest and crooked people. They are scum, human scum. “
The president added, “He was targeted by the Obama administration, and he was targeted in order to bring down a president.”
But Trump himself admitted in 2017 that Flynn had lied to the vice president and the FBI about his interactions with the Russian ambassador to the United States, prompting his ouster before the prosecution.
In court documents tabled Thursday, the DoJ said it was dropping the case “after a full examination of all the facts and circumstances of the case, including the newly discovered and leaked information.”
The department said it had concluded that the FBI’s interview with Flynn was “neither related to nor justified by the FBI counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview had been “conducted without any legitimate basis for investigation ”.
US lawyer reviewing the Flynn case, Jeff Jensen, recommended leaving the matter to Barr last week and formalized the recommendation this week.
Also on Thursday, DoJ attorney Brandon Van Grack withdrew from the criminal case. In a court case, he did not explain, but the action speculated that he objected to the DoJ’s decision.
The action comes amid an internal review of the handling of the case and an aggressive effort by Flynn’s lawyers to challenge the basis of the prosecution.
Lawyers cited recently leaked FBI emails and notes last week to allege that Flynn was unjustly trapped in lies when agents interrogated him at the White House a few days after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. that none of the documents appear to contradict the central allegation that Flynn lied to the FBI, Trump last week declared him “exempt”.
The move comes as Barr increasingly challenged the investigation into Russia, saying in a TV interview last month that it was launched “without any basis.” In February, he quashed a decision by prosecutors in the case of Roger Stone, another former Trump adviser, in favor of a lenient sentence for the self-proclaimed repairer of the Republicans.
Earlier this year, Barr appointed Jensen, the US lawyer for St Louis to investigate the handling of the Flynn case. As part of this process, the Department of Justice provided Flynn’s lawyers with a series of emails and notes, including a handwritten note from a senior FBI official describing internal deliberations on the purpose of the Flynn interview: “What is our goal? Truth / admission or to make it lie, so that we can pursue it or get it fired? Wrote the official.
Other documents show that the FBI had been prepared weeks before his interview with Flynn to drop his investigation to find out if he was acting under the leadership of Russia. Later in the month, however, as the White House insisted that Flynn had never discussed the sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, FBI officials became more and more concerned. The investigation remained open and officers went to visit him at the White House on January 24, 2017.
Justice Department officials went to the White House two days later to warn officials that they fear that Flynn will be compromised and vulnerable to Russian blackmail because of his account of what was said during the call. White House officials concluded that Flynn had lied to them and fired him.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December, among the first aides to the president to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign collaborated with Moscow in the 2016 elections.
He admitted to lying about his conversations with Kislyak, in which he urged Russia not to retaliate against the United States for sanctions imposed by the Obama administration due to electoral interference.
He provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors said he was entitled to a probation sentence instead of prison.
It turned out that this sentencing hearing was abruptly interrupted after Flynn, faced with a severe reprimand from US district judge Emmet Sullivan, asked to continue to cooperate and get credit for a more lenient sentence.
Since then, he has hired new lawyers.