Trump Pardons Flynn Despite Guilty Plea11/27 06:21
President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael
Flynn on Wednesday, ending a years-long prosecution in the Russia investigation
that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself
before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump pardoned his former national
security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a years-long prosecution in
the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI
and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss
"It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been
granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. "Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his
wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!"
The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader
effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his
administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It
comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another
associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.
A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the
pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the
president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.
The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause
celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of
what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted
guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of
his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in
February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security
In a statement, Flynn's family thanked Trump "for answering our prayers and
the prayers of a nation" by issuing the pardon.
Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi called it "an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of
power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence
Committee, said a "pardon by Trump does not erase" the truth of Flynn's guilty
plea, "no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise."
"The President's enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which
Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the
president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement.
"Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. "
The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most
dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the
case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the
first place, only to have U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan resist the request
and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position
and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.
That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal
request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were
ever-evolving and "patently pretextual."
As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer
Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to
direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the
full court overturned that decision and sent the case back to Sullivan.
At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed
Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon --- presumably
because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.
Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's
efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe
Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a
series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.
The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which
Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice
Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the
case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by
Attorney General William Barr.
At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after
Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential
transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.
Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not
discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama
administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference.
During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be "even-keeled" in
response to the punitive measures, and assured him "we can have a better
conversation" about relations between the countries after Trump became
The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating
whether the Trump campaign and Russia had coordinated to sway the election. In
addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak
had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.
Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that
Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed
discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded
guilty months later to a false statement charge.
But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice
Department abruptly reversed its position.
It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that
any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's
broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI
notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before
interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.
Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in
Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive cooperation that
prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of
But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about
his behavior from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that
he could continue cooperating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.
After that, he hired new attorneys --- including Powell, a conservative
commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation --- who took a far
more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty