President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in a case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“It is my great honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a full pardon,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”
Mr. Trump’s pardon of Flynn comes after rampant speculation that he would do so before leaving office in January. More pardons are expected to be issued in the waning days of his administration.
While Mr. Trump had been mum about whether he would pardon Flynn, he frequently expressed support for him. In July, the president said he would welcome Flynn back to the White House.
Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, said in September that she had discussed the case with Mr. Trump, but said she urged the president not to issue a pardon. But other Flynn supporters have long advocated for one.
Ms. Powell, who was part of the Trump campaign’s legal team trying to challenge the election in states the president lost to presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden, took a victory lap on Fox Business Network Wednesday night.
“We had passed the point of proving that General Flynn was innocent,” she said in an interview with Lou Dobbs. “All of the evidence we have gotten since I came on the case shows that. And it was high time that he be exonerated of all these charges. It was truly a pardon of innocence.”
Flynn’s family said they were grateful to Mr. Trump for “answering our prayers” and “undoing a hideous wrong.”
“We thank President Trump for recognizing our brother’s sacrifice in this battle for truth, our Constitution, our republic and all that America stands for around the world — a true beacon of liberty,” his family said in a statement.
Several of Mr. Trump’s allies celebrated the news of Flynn’s pardon.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows congratulated Flynn, calling it a “well deserved day for an American Patriot.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said Mr. Trump “is right to pardon the respected three-star general.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and House Judiciary Committee member, tweeted, “God Bless Michael Flynn.”
Democrats, meanwhile, tore into Mr. Trump, accusing him of doing political favors for his associates.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, accused Mr. Trump of rewarding “those who lie to cover up for him.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the pardon is “undeserved, unprincipled and one more stain on President Trump’s rapidly diminishing legacy.”
And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called the pardon “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power.”
But White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, fired back in a statement that Flynn was the victim of “partisan government officials engaged in a coordinated attempt to subvert the election of 2016.”
“While today’s action sets right an injustice against an innocent man and an American hero, it should also serve as a reminder to all of us that we must remain vigilant over those in whom we place our trust and confidence,” she said in a statement.
Controversial high-profile pardons usually come in the final days of an administration, perhaps signaling that Mr. Trump understands that his time in office is coming to an end, despite insisting he won the presidential election.
The pardon ends three years of legal back-and-forth as his case moved through the court system.
Flynn served for a few weeks at the White House before he resigned after being accused of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. At the time, Mr. Trump tweeted that he fired Flynn because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence.
In 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. in the days before the Trump administration took over.
Flynn recanted in January, professing his innocence after changing lawyers. He had dropped his high-powered D.C. law firm for Ms. Powell, a conservative firebrand known for criticizing the Mueller probe on cable talk shows.
The Justice Department touched off a political firestorm in May, when it reversed course and asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges against Flynn.
The stunning reversal prompted one of the prosecutors working the case to resign from it in protest.
Yet the top brass at the Justice Department pushed forward with their goal of abandoning their three-year prosecution of Flynn.
Department lawyers said in court filings that Flynn’s lies to the FBI agents were not “material” to the bureau’s probe into whether Russian agents colluded with the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.
They also argued that the FBI should not have interviewed Flynn in the first place. The FBI was set to close its investigation into Flynn just weeks before the infamous White House interview because it had not uncovered any wrongdoing.
However, the FBI’s top officials pushed to keep it open, according to Justice Department documents uncovered this year.
The judge overseeing Flynn’s case resisted the Justice Department’s calls to immediately dismiss the case. Instead, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department and weigh whether Flynn should be slapped with a perjury charge.
A federal appeals court panel initially held that Judge Sullivan had overstepped his authority by refusing to dismiss the case. But the full court reversed that ruling, returning the case to Judge Sullivan.
Flynn’s legal case had stalled with no action on it in more than a month.
Flynn is the latest close associate to have Mr. Trump pardon them or commute their sentence.
He commuted the sentences of longtime GOP political adviser Roger Stone and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who appeared on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show.
Mr. Trump also has pardoned former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and financier Michael Milken.