- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A federal judge on Tuesday officially dismissed former Trump administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s criminal case as moot because he was pardoned by the president, ending a dramatic three-year legal fight.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who initially rebuffed efforts by Mr. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, and the Justice Department to end the prosecution, took some final parting shots before dismissing the case.

Judge Sullivan questioned the legal validity of Mr. Flynn’s pardon, calling it “a political decision, not a legal one.” He added that Mr. Flynn’s acceptance of a pardon “implies a ‘confession’ of guilt.”

“The pardon ‘does not, standing alone, render [Mr. Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation,’ ” he wrote.

Judge Sullivan said he probably would have denied the Justice Department’s bid to drop the case, accusing the government of making “dubious” legal arguments.

He blasted the government’s rationale to end the case as “ever-evolving justifications” that “appear to be irrelevant or to directly contradict previous statements” made by prosecutors.

Still, Judge Sullivan dismissed the case, ensuring that Mr. Flynn will not face federal penalties for “any and all possible offenses” arising from the Russia probe.

Mr. Trump celebrated the news on Twitter, congratulating Mr. Flynn and saying his family has “suffered greatly.”

Flynn attorney Sidney Powell said the scathing opinion shows Judge Sullivan’s “blatant bias,” adding that he should have been disqualified from the case.

Mr. Flynn, who briefly served as Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition period.

As one of the most significant and earliest defendants ensnared in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians who interfered in the 2016 election, Mr. Flynn immediately agreed to cooperate.

However, Mr. Flynn last year fired his high-priced Washington lawyers and hired Ms. Powell, a conservative firebrand, to undo his guilty plea.

The Justice Department earlier this year sought to abandon the three-year prosecution of Mr. Flynn, asking Judge Sullivan to dismiss the case.

Judge Sullivan resisted the Justice Department’s pressure, instead hiring a retired federal judge to argue against the case and weigh if Mr. Flynn should be held in contempt for admitting under oath that he is guilty, but later professing his innocence.

The Justice Department argued that Mr. Flynn’s statements to the FBI were not material to the bureau’s Russian collusion probe and that it could prove that he made knowingly false statements to the agents.

In his opinion Tuesday, Judge Sullivan blasted both of those claims.

He accused the Justice Department of relying on a “newly minted definition” of materiality and questioned how Mr. Flynn could not accurately recall his conversation with the Russian ambassador.”

Mr. Flynn is not just anyone; he was the national security adviser to the president, clearly in a position of trust, who claimed that he forgot, within less than a month, that he personally asked for a favor from the Russian ambassador that undermined the policy of the sitting president prior to the president-elect taking office,” Judge Sullivan wrote.

Judge Sullivan also assailed Mr. Trump, saying his interest in the case influenced the Justice Department’s decision to terminate it, noting that the president tweeted or retweeted about the case at least 100 times.

“Given this context, the new legal positions the government took … raise questions regarding its motives in moving to dismiss,” the judge wrote.

Mr. Trump repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation and embraced Mr. Flynn’s case, going so far as to say he would be welcomed back at the White House.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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