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Appeals court orders judge to dismiss charges in Flynn case

The case is related to the Russia collusion probe

Published: June 24, 2020 10:17am

Updated: June 24, 2020 3:17pm

A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered a judge to grant the Justice Department its request to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a 2-1 ruling, said the department’s decision to abandon the case against Flynn settles the matter, despite Flynn having reached a deal with prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office to plead guilty to making false statements in connection with a now-discredited FBI probe into whether the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, admitted making materially false statements and omissions in an interview with FBI agents, days after the president’s January 2017 inauguration, about conversations he had during the presidential transition period with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

However, Flynn's attorneys withdrew their client's plea earlier this year, following the release of declassified documents suggesting that the agents broke with protocol in the White House interview.

Attorney General William Barr asked the court in May to allow it to have the case dismissed. 

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the case, seeking instead to evaluate on his own the department’s unusual dismissal request. He appointed retired federal Judge John Gleeson to argue against the department’s position and to consider whether Flynn could be held in criminal contempt for perjury, the wire service reports.

Flynn was the only White House official charged in Mueller’s investigation.

The Justice Department moved to dismiss the case as part of a broader effort by Barr to scrutinize, and even undo, some of the decisions reached during the Russia investigation.

In its motion, the department argued that Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador — in which they discussed sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia for election interference — were appropriate and not material to the underlying counterintelligence investigation.

The department also noted that weeks before the interview, the FBI had prepared to close its investigation into Flynn after not finding evidence of a crime.

However, Gleeson called the Justice Department’s request a “gross abuse” of prosecutorial power and accused the government of creating a pretext to benefit an ally of the president.

Wednesday’s 2-1 opinion was authored by Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, and joined by Karen LeCraft Henderson, who had asked skeptical questions of lawyers for Flynn and the Justice Department during arguments earlier this month, the Associated Press reports.

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