- - Monday, August 10, 2020

There is a certain ghastly appeal to the time loop, a fantasy of the silver screen in which a protagonist is forced to relive a dreadful event over and over again. It’s amusing to watch Bill Murray’s character relive his Punxsutawney daytime nightmare in “Groundhog Day,” but jarring when, in his role, Tom Cruise awakens each day only to die in battle in “Edge of Tomorrow.” For retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a twist in the orderly flow of justice has locked him into a relentless legal confrontation for a crime that common sense says he didn’t commit. It’s real life, though, and it must end.

The former Trump national security adviser on Tuesday faces the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeking dismissal of a criminal charge that has hounded him for more than three years: allegedly lying to the FBI about the contents of a 2016 phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Days, months and seasons have unfolded while he has defended his beleaguered reputation, along with a shocking string of revelations about the motivations of the Obama-era lieutenants behind his prosecution. Justice, and the Justice Department, says Mr. Flynn should never have been charged in the first place.

That conclusion has only been reinforced by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’ testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Asked by Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, whether FBI Director James Comey had gone “rogue” with his handling of the Flynn investigation, she responded, “You could use that term, yes.”

Even if Mr. Comey had indeed gone rogue, Ms. Yates maintained that Mr. Flynn’s communication with the Russian ambassador was ample cause for suspicion. “General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government’s message of deterrence,” she told lawmakers. Sadly, it appears Team Obama was afraid to release its grip on governance, which the American people had voted to hand over to Team Trump.

There is no longer any question as to how high involvement in the Flynn case reached in the Obama White House. Declassified documents have placed both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting during which Mr. Comey briefed participants on details of FBI surveillance of the general.

To hear Ms. Yates tell it, Messrs. Obama and Biden expressed no bias for or against the incoming national security adviser. Mr. Graham, though, disagreed, pointing to a contemporaneous record from the meeting noting that it was Mr. Biden, now the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who voiced the idea of charging Mr. Flynn with violating the Logan Act, an obscure law prohibiting unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

As it turned out, Justice Department careerists chose to charge him with lying, overriding the opinion of FBI agents who found no lack of candor when questioning the general about his Russia contact. It has been said that a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. A cunning prosecutor would be more accurate, like those who ganged up on Mr. Flynn; a good one wouldn’t lower himself.

It didn’t take long for the outgoing Obama administration to entangle their incoming nemeses in a world of trouble. Repairing the damage remains incomplete. The Justice Department inspector general concluded in its 2019 report that there was no collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia to influence the presidential election. Accordingly, U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered an investigation into the roots of “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI probe that included the Flynn case.

Over the intervening years, Mr. Flynn has been told to plead guilty and go quietly to jail and has been called a traitor by his judge. Fighting back from the brink of ignominy with the help of his patriotic attorney, Sidney Powell, he has watched the case against him crumble under the slow but relentless advance of fact.

Finally, Mr. Barr sought to dismiss the charges against the former general, only to encounter a rebellion within the ranks of the Obama Justice holdovers, followed by presiding Judge Emmet Sullivan’s unprecedented refusal to gavel the case to a close. The U.S. Appeals Court should do it for him.

Americans are waiting for a final resolution that frees Mr. Flynn, a long-suffering public servant. An endless cycle of prosecution is itself a form of punishment. It should never have happened.

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