After several years of relentless investigation and courtroom battles, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser has finally been cleared of all charges related to the FBI investigation of alleged Russian collusion with Trump’s 2016 campaign.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has handled the case since its inception in 2017, announced this week that he had finally dismissed the charges.
“A political decision”
The move represented, albeit reluctantly, the judge’s recognition that the case was moot in the wake of a recent pardon from the president.
Trump and his allies have long asserted that Flynn was essentially entrapped by FBI agents in early 2017 when he was questioned about conversations he had with a Russian ambassador during Trump’s transition. Flynn, whose charges stemmed from the larger Russia-Trump probe, had initially pleaded guilty to misleading investigators but later retracted his plea.
Sullivan, who once denounced Flynn as traitorous, had refused to dismiss the case earlier this year in response to a request from the U.S. Department of Justice. Furthermore, he suggested holding Flynn in contempt.
Even as he formally dismissed the case on Tuesday, the judge maintained that he did not believe Flynn was innocent of the charges.
“The history of the Constitution, its structure, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the pardon power make clear that President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one,” Sullivan determined.
He continued by determining that “the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot” in light of the presidential pardon, but asserting that it “does not, standing alone, render [Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation.”
The pardon specifically covers “any and all possible offenses arising from the facts set forth … or that might arise, or be charged, claimed or asserted” in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
For his part, Sullivan slammed the language as “extraordinarily broad” and pushed back against arguments by the Justice Department, which asserted that the FBI had no reason to interview Flynn and that he had not made “materially false” statements in his answers.
The judge concluded: “While not conclusory, many of the government’s reasons for why it has decided to reverse course and seek dismissal in this case appear pretextual, particularly in view of the surrounding circumstances.”
Following news of the pardon, Flynn issued a statement expressing his relief, rejoicing in the ability to once again “breathe freedom and liberty.”