A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the criminal case against former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn but pointedly noted a pardon Flynn received from the president last month did not mean he was innocent.
The order from US District Judge Emmet Sullivan was expected in light of the pardon from President Donald Trump that wiped away Mr Flynn’s conviction for lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation.
Judge Sullivan acknowledged in his 43-page order the president’s broad pardon powers required dismissal and that the decision to pardon Mr Flynn was a political, rather than legal, one.
But he also stressed a pardon, by itself, did not mean Mr Flynn was innocent of a crime he had twice pleaded guilty to committing. He dismissed as “dubious to say the least” the Justice Department’s stated rationales for seeking to drop the case — a request that was still pending at the time the pardon was issued — and noted the president’s own personal interest in the matter.
Thank you and congratulations to General Flynn. He and his incredible family have suffered greatly! https://t.co/UjH6LVuON8
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2020
He twice admitted guilt during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to lying to the FBI about conversations he had during the presidential transition period with the-then Russian ambassador to the United States.
Those talks involved sanctions the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia for election interference.
But the Justice Department last spring abruptly moved to dismiss the case, despite Mr Flynn’s own guilty plea, arguing there was insufficient basis for the FBI to have questioned him in the first place and that the statements he made during the interview were immaterial to the underlying investigation into whether the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia.