A federal judge late Wednesday halted all proceedings in the case against President Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.
U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan issued a one-page order hours after a federal appeals court ordered him to dismiss the case saying he overstepped his authority by keeping it alive.
The move buys Judge Sullivan some time while he decides whether to appeal the 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Judge Sullivan could appeal the case to the en banc appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is also possible one of the appellate court judges could request en banc hearing even if Judge Sullivan doesn’t.
“In light of the Opinion and Order issued by the Court of Appeals on Mr. Flynn’s petition for writ of mandamus, the deadlines and hearing date set forth in the Minute Order of May 19, 2020 are hereby stayed,” Judge Sullivan wrote in the order.
Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the then-Russian ambassador just before the start of the Trump Administration in late 2016. He later professed his innocence, alleging he was set up by the FBI.
The Justice Department last month surprisingly asked to drop the case, but Judge Sullivan did not immediately grant the request. Instead, he appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s position and weigh whether Flynn should be held in contempt.
The appellate court majority said Judge Sullivan shouldn’t have questioned the Justice Department’s decision.
In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power,” the majority 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,” the opinion continued.