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Michael Flynn probe represents broader Obama administration assault on Trump presidency

The collapse of the Obama administration’s dogged pursuit of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has come to represent a broader assault on the Trump campaign, transition and presidency that Attorney General William Barr has concluded amounted to FBI “sabotage.” From July 31, 2016, to deep into the Trump presidency, the FBI littered its investigative…

Michael Flynn probe represents broader Obama administration assault on Trump presidency

The collapse of the Obama administration’s dogged pursuit of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has come to represent a broader assault on the Trump campaign, transition and presidency that Attorney General William Barr has concluded amounted to FBI “sabotage.”

From July 31, 2016, to deep into the Trump presidency, the FBI littered its investigative trail with questionable conduct that led the president to believe that agents had been after him all along.

“It was an attempted overthrow of the government of the United States of America and duly elected president,” Mr. Trump told The Washington Times in an Oval Office interview last week. “And we caught them.”

Notes taken by FBI agent Peter Strzok filed Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington show that President Obama took a keen interest in probing Mr. Flynn. Mr. Obama said in early January 2017 to make sure the FBI had the right people investigating.

At the time, White House officials on their way out the door asked the intelligence community to unmask Mr. Flynn in scores of secret intelligence reports from the National Security Agency so they could read what he was up to.

Overall, FBI agents embraced a sketchy 35-page collection of anti-Trump claims called the dossier. Using the dossier as a basis, they acquired a year of wiretaps on campaign volunteer Carter Page, with agents misleading judges in the process, and cited conspiracy allegations to fuel their Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

The FBI hired a cast of confidential human sources, most notably Stefan Halper, to try to entrap Mr. Page and associate George Papadopoulos. Their secretly recorded conversations with Mr. Halper came up empty, so the FBI ignored them, a government report said.

That was a theme in the momentous report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Time and again, the FBI obtained favorable information on Mr. Page yet withheld it from federal judges so that agents could win a wiretap extension.

Intelligence services told the FBI early in 2017 that Russians had penetrated the dossier’s data collection stream and added fake anti-Trump claims.

Perhaps worse, the main Russian source for Christopher Steele’s dossier told the FBI that he merely repeated unsubstantiated gossip.

Yet the FBI stuck with the dossier. Mr. Horowitz found that two FBI employees played major roles in keeping from judges that Mr. Page was a verified CIA informant. One FBI lawyer falsified a CIA email.

Not lost on Republicans was the overriding fact that the FBI invested huge currency in a dossier that was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee and was designed to sink the Trump presidency.

Always lurking beneath the FBI maneuvering was a series of text messages between Mr. Strzok, who led Crossfire Hurricane, and his lover, FBI counsel Lisa Page. Both expressed complete disgust for candidate Trump. Mr. Strzok vowed to “stop” him.

The FBI fired Mr. Strzok. Ms. Page resigned and has joined MSNBC as an analyst, along with a cast of other ardent Trump opponents, such as Obama-era CIA Director John O. Brennan and Andrew Weissmann, top gun to special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Weissmann even gave Democrats advice during an MSNBC appearance on how to bring down Mr. Trump.

Flynn in the line of fire

The Brennan perch opens another chapter in what Republicans believe was a Democratic Party and Obama loyalists operation to sabotage Mr. Trump from Nov. 8, 2016, on.

Mr. Brennan spent much of his first two years on MSNBC calling Mr. Trump an agent or asset of Moscow — in other words, a spy. He predicted that scores of Trump allies would be indicted on charges of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. When none was, Mr. Brennen said he must have been misinformed.

At CNN, Mr. Obama’s director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, played the same tune as Mr. Brennan: Mr. Trump was a spy handled by the Kremlin.

Neither Mr. Brennan nor Mr. Clapper ever presented any evidence.

All the while, Trump aides suspected that Obama loyalists were mounting information warfare against the president by planting news stories, some of them highly inaccurate.

That brings things to the Flynn case. A well-timed leak to The Washington Post revived the FBI probe into Mr. Flynn as he served on the transition team and then became White House national security adviser.

Mr. Strzok had moved to close the Flynn case because his team found no links to Russian collusion. But then the FBI recorded Mr. Flynn’s calls with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Someone leaked to The Post that Mr. Flynn had discussed Mr. Obama’s new sanctions against Moscow. The Trump team denied this, giving agents a reason to interview Mr. Flynn. He later admitted in court to lying to agents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Wednesday ordered the U.S. District Court to dismiss the Flynn case, as sought by the attorney general.

Mr. Barr assigned U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen to review the Flynn prosecution. Mr. Jensen uncovered notes that showed the FBI had a strategy of trying to get Mr. Flynn to lie or admit violating the centuries-old Logan Act, or to get him fired.

FBI Director James B. Comey bragged during a book tour that he was able to slip agents past the White House counsel’s office. Mr. Flynn was not read his rights. Mueller prosecutors threatened to investigate his son, Michael Jr., before Mr. Flynn agreed to plead guilty. He amassed $5 million in legal bills.

The Strzok notes show that the entire White House power base — from Mr. Obama to Vice President Joseph R. Biden to National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice — had talked about getting Mr. Flynn prosecuted.

Key dates in the Trump-Russia saga show that at each step there was never any evidence — an informant, email, text message, communications intercept or whistleblower — that a Trump associate had conspired with the Kremlin.

On July 31, 2016, the FBI opened its historic investigation into the Trump campaign by picking four targets: Mr. Flynn, Mr. Page, Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort, briefly Mr. Trump’s campaign manager. The targeting was based on possible ties, not evidence.

In March 2017, Mr. Comey told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the entire Trump campaign was under scrutiny for any links to the Kremlin. There was still no evidence of a conspiracy.

In May, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sent a “scope” memo to Mr. Mueller authorizing him to probe the same four people. Mr. Rosenstein recently testified that the memo was written by Mueller people. There still was no evidence of a conspiracy. The scope memo appeared to be based on the dossier.

Mr. Mueller closed his probe in March 2019, saying he never found a conspiracy.

All of the FBI’s missteps prompted Mr. Barr to tell Fox News’ Laura Ingraham in April: “I think the president has every right to be frustrated, because I think what happened to him was one of the greatest travesties in American history. Without any basis, [the FBI] started this investigation of his campaign and even more concerning, actually, is what happened after the campaign. A whole pattern of events while he was president to sabotage the presidency, or at least having the effect of sabotaging the presidency.”

Mr. Barr named John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to investigate the FBI’s handling of Crossfire Hurricane.

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Michael Flynn case to be heard by full appeals court

A federal appeals court on Thursday agreed to take a second look at whether the Justice Department can withdraw the criminal charges against Michael Flynn, keeping President Trump’s first national security adviser in legal jeopardy for at least a little while longer. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated last…

Michael Flynn case to be heard by full appeals court

A federal appeals court on Thursday agreed to take a second look at whether the Justice Department can withdraw the criminal charges against Michael Flynn, keeping President Trump’s first national security adviser in legal jeopardy for at least a little while longer.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated last month’s split decision by a three-judge panel that ordered the charges dismissed. A new round of oral arguments now can proceed.

Oral arguments before the full court are scheduled for Aug. 11.

Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., in late 2016 just before the Trump administration took over.

But the Justice Department, in a surprise move earlier this year, sought to abandon the Flynn case, which it had been pursuing since 2017.

The federal court and the Justice Department have been tussling ever since.

In a 2-1 decision last month, the court ruled U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan did not have the authority to block the Justice Department’s motion to abandon its prosecution of Mr. Flynn.

The judge who dissented was the lone Democratic-appointed judge on the panel. The D.C. Circuit is currently composed of seven judges appointed by three Democrats and four Republican appointees.

Justice Department lawyers said the FBI never should have interviewed Mr. Flynn as part of its probe into allegations of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia operatives interfering in the 2016 election.

The FBI had no evidence Mr. Flynn could shed light on their probe, department lawyers wrote.

Judge Sullivan ordered extra scrutiny of the Justice Department’s decision and appointed an outside counsel to argue against dropping the case. Mr. Flynn’s lawyers responded with a petition to the D.C. Circuit asking it to force Judge Sullivan to accept the Justice Department’s request.

The panel agreed with Mr. Flynn, saying Judge Sullivan did not have the authority to buck the Justice Department’s request.

“In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power,” Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed to the D.C. Circuit by President Trump, wrote in the majority opinion.

Judge Sullivan appealed that decision earlier this month, asking the full court to review the appellate court’s ruling. In his filing, he claimed the court’s decision threatened “to turn the ordinary judicial process upside down.”

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FBI shut down Michael Flynn probe but didn’t lock it up

Second of two parts. Defense attorney Sidney Powell has mounted a tenacious battle to convince the Justice Department and the courts that her client, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, deserves a clean slate in what she claims was an FBI set-up to get him to lie about a phone call with a Russian diplomat.…

FBI shut down Michael Flynn probe but didn’t lock it up

Second of two parts.

Defense attorney Sidney Powell has mounted a tenacious battle to convince the Justice Department and the courts that her client, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, deserves a clean slate in what she claims was an FBI set-up to get him to lie about a phone call with a Russian diplomat.

In May, a remarkable set of secret FBI documents materialized in U.S. District Court files, compliments of U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen, who was appointed by Attorney General William P. Barr to investigate the Flynn case. Mr. Jensen’s dogged pursuit uncovered evidence that tended to exonerate the former national security adviser.

The stunning disclosure was the FBI’s “closing communication,” dated Jan. 4, 2017. After five months of investigating Mr. Flynn, whose code name was Crossfire Razor, the FBI counterintelligence team exonerated him of any improper contacts with Russians or any derogatory information.

This would cover the 2014 dinner of intelligence specialists at England’s University of Cambridge, where Mr. Flynn, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, met graduate student Svetlana Lokhova, a Russia-born British citizen; as well as Mr. Flynn’s 2015 trip to Moscow to accept a speaking fee at a gala for RT, the Kremlin’s propaganda TV network.

A U.S. appeals court is weighing Ms. Lokhova’s libel lawsuit accusing major news organizations of wrongly implying that she is a Russian spy who was in an inappropriate relationship with Mr. Flynn. The lawsuit lays the blame for rumormongering on Cambridge professor Stefan Halper, the FBI informant who spied on two Trump campaign volunteers.

The closing memo contains gossip about Ms. Lokhova that her attorney, Steven Biss, says proves that Mr. Halper lied about her.

While checking on Mr. Flynn, the FBI contacted an “established” confidential human source (CHS) who told agents about Crossfire Razor speaking at an unidentified location that involved “dinner and drinks.”

This source’s profile fits that of Mr. Halper.

The source said he “witnessed” Mr. Flynn getting into a cab with a person whose name is redacted. Mr. Biss says it is surely Ms. Lokhova.

The memo states: “The CHS stated that a [redacted] surprised everyone and got into [Crossfire Razor’s] cab and joined CR on the train ride to [redacted]. The CHS stated that s/he was somewhat prominent members of [redacted]. The CHS believes that [redacted] father may be a Russian oligarch living in [redacted].”

Ms. Lokhova’s says the “oligarch” claim is the type of rumor spread by Mr. Halper, who did not attend the dinner.

The memo deletes the dinner’s date and place. It does not identify the confidential human source. There is no official confirmation that it was Mr. Halper.

In his first appeals court brief, Mr. Biss states: “Lokhova’s allegations about Halper and the scheme to manufacture evidence of ‘Russian collusion’ have been corroborated. … On April 29, 2020, the Department of Justice released an FBI ‘Closing Communication’ which confirmed that Halper told the FBI in 2016/2017 that after the February 28, 2014 dinner Lokhova ‘surprised everyone and got into CR’s [Flynn‘s] cab and joined CR on the train ride to [redacted].”

Ms. Lokhova says Mr. Halper’s apparent testimony to the FBI could not possibly be true. He could not have “witnessed” such a cab ride because he did not attend the dinner and she never got into a cab with Mr. Flynn. She left with her husband. She never saw Mr. Flynn again after that night.

“He left with the DIA liaison and went back to the hotel,” Ms. Powell told The Washington Times.

For someone who news media suggested was a Russian agent connected to Mr. Flynn, Ms. Lokhova was of no interest to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators and prosecutors. They never contacted her.

If Mr. Biss is correct, then the closing memo contains good news for Ms. Lokhova. It said the FBI ran counterintelligence checks with U.S. and foreign services. The bureau found nothing derogatory, meaning Ms. Lokhova was cleared of being a Russian agent.

The clearing of Mr. Flynn also covered his much-analyzed 2015 trip to Moscow, where he was photographed sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The cozy dinner scene came to symbolize the media’s Trump-Russia conspiracy theories.

‘Questionable allegiance’

In fact, there was far more to the RT chapter of Mr. Flynn’s life. The trip was approved by the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to investigative reporter John Solomon. The Defense Intelligence Agency provided a protective briefing on how to navigate Moscow’s byzantine spy apparatus, which was always attuned to a visiting VIP. In addition, on his return to the U.S., Mr. Flynn gave the Defense Intelligence Agency a series of briefings on what he saw and heard in Moscow.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, received a classified briefing from the Defense Intelligence Agency on Mr. Flynn in early 2017. He asked the agency to declassify certain points but never heard back.

While investigating Mr. Flynn, the FBI analyzed past travel and put surveillance teams on him to see if he made contact with a Russian at an unidentified “event,” according to the closing memo. This presumably would have happened between Aug. 16, 2016, when the FBI opened the inquiry, and Jan. 4, 2017, the date of the closing memo. The FBI said there was no contact.

The FBI ended up clearing Mr. Flynn in its closing statement: “Following the compilation of the above information, the [Crossfire Hurricane] team determined that Crossfire Razor was no longer a viable candidate as part of the Crossfire Hurricane umbrella case. A review of logical databases did not yield any information on which to predicate further investigative efforts. While a CHS provided some information on CR’s interaction with [redacted] the absence of derogatory information on [redacted] limited the investigative value of the information.”

The Washington Times provided the closing memo to Mr. Halper’s attorney, Robert Luskin.

“Professor Halper does not intend to comment,” Mr. Luskin said.

Mr. Halper’s modus operandi has been challenged elsewhere. The Washington Times reported in 2018 that national security experts whom he listed as consultants for a pricey Pentagon study on Russia-China said they never contributed to his work.

Mr. Grassley asked for an inspector general’s probe. The inspector general found last year that the Pentagon and Mr. Halper failed to verify that he spoke with or visited the sources he put into a statement of work for over $1 million in contracts.

Mr. Halper is described as “Source 2” in a voluminous report on FBI wiretap abuse by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Two Trump volunteers have publicly identified Mr. Halper as the FBI informant who made contact with them in 2016.

As a job interview, Mr. Halper first met with the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team on Aug. 11, 2016, as agents assessed whether to hire him for the Trump campaign targeting. He told agents “that he had been previously acquainted with Michael Flynn.”

Flynn associates say he has never met Mr. Halper. The FBI formally opened a case on Mr. Flynn five days later.

The FBI met with Mr. Halper again the next day. They settled on him to reach out to campaign volunteers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.

Mr. Halper was not always a model confidential human source. In 2011, the FBI fired him for “aggressiveness toward handling agents as a result of what [Mr. Halper] perceived as not enough compensation,” the Horowitz report says. It also said he had “questionable allegiance” to his own stable of intelligence sources.

The FBI ultimately graded Mr. Halper’s reliability as high for the Trump probe.In May 2017, while he sat on the sidelines in England and before he was outed as an FBI spy, Mr. Halper became a cheerleader for the Mueller investigation.

He appeared on BBC radio the day after Mr. Mueller was appointed. Asked whether the investigation was on par with Watergate, Mr. Halper said, “There is a sense this issue is moving in that direction. It clearly has gathered a fair amount of momentum.”

By then, Mr. Halper had secretly recorded conversations with Mr. Papadopoulos and Mr. Page. Both denied any role by themselves or the campaign in Kremlin election interference.

As for Mr. Flynn, the FBI never finished the case-closing paperwork. Bureau leaders stopped the process after learning that Mr. Flynn had spoken with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition. Mr. Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to lying about the call. The Justice Department wants the judge to throw out that confession.

Lokhova goes to court

In May 2019, Ms. Lokhova filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Halper and four media outlets in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

“Lokhova is not and never has been a Russian spy or an agent of Russian intelligence or any branch or agency of the Russian government,” the lawsuit says. “She is Russian by birth. That’s it. … Lokhova never had an affair with General Flynn. Indeed, she has never been alone with General Flynn, ever.”

The lawsuit told of the emotional cost of unfounded media stories: “She lives in constant fear and with a deep sense of betrayal and dismay. Plaintiff experiences a recurring nightmare about being separated from her baby as a result of arrest on a false charge manufactured by Halper and his handlers. Plaintiff has contemplated suicide to end the suffering caused by the enormous weight and stress of being collateral damage in Halper’s international conspiracy and scandal.”

Mr. Halper filed a response saying Ms. Lokhova is trying to make money.

“The Complaint is a transparent effort to attract attention and renown to the Plaintiff by converting this Court into a political blog from which publicity, followers, and funding can be garnered,” Mr. Halper said.

He said the libel lawsuit “offers no factual support to justify its claim that Mr. Halper was a source for any of the eight articles, other than to suggest that it is ‘obvious’ that Halper was a source of one of these articles.”

“Conspicuously absent is any claim about anyone saying that Plaintiff is a Russian spy, that she had an affair with General Flynn, or that she was directed by Russian intelligence to do so,” he said.

Mr. Halper took offense to Mr. Biss‘ calling him a “ratf–-r,” a term derived from the political dirty tricks of the Nixon era. His attorneys asked the judge to sanction Mr. Biss, but U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema declined.

But Mr. Halper and the press won on the bigger issue.

Judge Brinkema dismissed the case on several grounds. Most of the stories appeared after a one-year statute of limitations expired from May 23, 2019, when the lawsuit was filed, and other parts of news stories were not defamatory, the judge said.

For Mr. Halper, Ms. Lokhova did not provide sufficient evidence that he was spreading rumors to the press. Ms. Lokhova quoted a reporter in 2016 as saying his source was Mr. Halper, but that was beyond the of statute of limitations, the judge said.

Judge Brinkema scolded Mr. Biss, who has taken on libel lawsuits for Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican, for his brief’s personal attacks.

“The record is clear that Biss filed an excessively long complaint and amended complaint on Lokhova’s behalf directing unprofessional ad hominem attacks at Halper and others,” the judge said. “The complaint exaggerates the nature and content of the allegedly defamatory statements.”

New player

It is difficult to find an aspect of the Russia saga that doesn’t involve Christopher Steele, the former British spy and Democratic Party-financed operative who wrote the largely discredited anti-Trump dossier. The Flynn story is no different.

A pivotal player in Mr. Steele’s operation to spread the dossier as many places as possible — the news media, FBI, Justice Department and State Department — was David J. Kramer. The former State Department official was an associate of Sen. John McCain, the late Arizona Republican. A Steele associate told him at a conference about explosive allegations about President-elect Trump dug up by a former spy in London.

McCain dispatched Mr. Kramer to a secret meeting in London with Mr. Steele, who told him that Mr. Trump stood in the middle of a far-reaching election conspiracy with the Kremlin. (This would prove untrue.)

Mr. Steele sent the dossier by encryption to the investigative firm Fusion GPS, his American handler. In days, Mr. Kramer was promoting the dossier all over Washington.

It was Mr. Steele’s second dossier wave. Before the election, he came to Washington to pitch his claims to the mightiest of the news bureaus in the nation’s capital. He also took it to the State Department while a surrogate relayed dossier claims to the Justice Department and the FBI.

The FBI came to embrace the dossier and used it as evidence for wiretaps and to put Trump people under investigation. It wanted to pay Mr. Steele to keep investigating Mr. Trump, and it insisted that the dossier’s most stunning claims against Mr. Trump be included in an intelligence community historical report on Russian interference.

Mr. Kramer’s most fateful meeting was with a BuzzFeed reporter. After Mr. Kramer left the room, the reporter photographed each of 35 pages. The site published the entire document days before Mr. Trump took office.

A year later, December 2017, Mr. Kramer arrived as a witness before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The committee recently released the transcript, which showed that someone else — Mr. Steele — was peddling the Flynn-Lokhova tale.

“There was one thing he mentioned to me that is not included here, and that is he believed that Mr. Flynn had an extramarital affair with a Russian woman in the U.K.,” Mr. Kramer said.

So, among Mr. Steele’s list of allegations against Trump aides was the Lokhova false rumor. How many other Washington players heard Mr. Steele’s gossip on Flynn is not known.

Ms. Lokhova has told her story in a book, “Spygate Exposed.”

“A Cambridge historian’s eyewitness account of America’s first presidential coup,” says a book blurb. “An innocent woman, Svetlana Lokhova was pulled into this fabricated narrative through dishonest accusations — for instance, that she was General Flynn’s paramour and a Russian spy.”

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Michael Flynn case dismissed by federal appeals court

A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered a trial judge to dismiss the case against President Trump’s first national security adviser, Micheal Flynn, who was ensnared in the Russia collusion probe. In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a request by Flynn and the Justice…

Michael Flynn case dismissed by federal appeals court

A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered a trial judge to dismiss the case against President Trump’s first national security adviser, Micheal Flynn, who was ensnared in the Russia collusion probe.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a request by Flynn and the Justice Department to drop the charges.

The court also vacated the trial judge’s appointment of a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss, saying he was no longer needed.

Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell said she was “delighted to see the Rule of Law applied by the D.C. Circuit.”

President Trump also applauded the decision, which exonerates his former associate.

“Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request To Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn!” he wrote on Twitter.

The next move is up to trial Judge Emmet Sullivan who could try to appeal the decision to the full Circuit Court or even the Supreme Court. It is unclear whether he will do so and if he doesn’t, the next step would be for him to comply.

If unchallenged with more appeals, the decision brings a surprise ending the case. The multiyear legal drama saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kisylak during the transition period before the Trump administration took over.

Flynn later recanted and sought to change his guilty plea. After two bombshell court documents raised questions about whether Flynn was set up by the FBI, the Justice Department moved to dismiss the case it had been prosecuting for nearly three years.

Judge Sullivan bristled at the Justice Department’s request. He appointed an ex-federal judge, John Gleeson, to argue against the department’s position and consider whether Flynn should be held in contempt for perjury.

In the majority decision, the two judges said trial Judge Sullivan didn’t have enough evidence to question the Justice Department’s prosecutorial decision in the case.

Mr. Gleeson said last week, the move to dismiss the case was “an abuse of power” by the Justice Department.

Judge Sullivan “fails to justify the district court’s unprecedented intrusions on individual liberty and the [Executive Branch’s] charging authority,” wrote Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, in the majority opinion.

The majority also said that Judge Sullivan had overstepped his authority by questioning the Justice Department’s decisions.

“In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power,” Judge Rao wrote.

“If evidence comes to light calling into question the integrity or purpose of an underlying criminal investigation, the Executive Branch must have the authority to decide that further prosecution is not in the interest of justice,” she continued.

Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee, dissented from the opinion, arguing that the Judge Sullivan should have the authority to scrutinize the Justice Department’s dismissal request.

“It is a great irony that, in finding the district court to have exceeded its jurisdiction, this court so grievously oversteps its own,” he wrote. “This appears to be the first time that we have issued a writ of mandamus to compel a district court to rule in a particular manner on a motion without first giving the lower court a reasonable opportunity to issue its own ruling.”

The Justice Department last month moved to drop the case, after “a considered review of all the facts and circumstances.”

Justice Department officials said Flynn’s FBI interview was “untethered to and unjustified” because it was conducted “without any legitimate basis.” The Department also said Flynn’s lies were “not material” to the broader Russia probe.

The surprise end to the prosecution came after the FBI unsealed notes raising questions about whether Flynn had been set up. One top FBI official questioned whether the goal of interviewing Flynn was to get him to lie so he could be prosecuted or fired.

Another internal FBI document revealed that the bureau was set to close the case after failing to uncover any wrongdoing. But an anti-Trump FBI official pushed to keep it open after discussing the case with bureau leadership.

One of the top president’s top Senate allies, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, also praised the decision, noting the Flynn saga had dragged on for almost three years before the case ended.

“Justice. Finally Justice,” the South Carolina Republican said. “Justice delayed is better than no justice.”

The dismissal comes hours before the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on allegations that Attorney General William P. Barr has intervened in cases to cut breaks for the president’s associates.

One former Justice Department prosecutor is expected to testify that longtime Trump friend Roger Stone received favorable treatment because of his connection to the president.

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