A US appeals court on Wednesday directed a federal judge to drop the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn as demanded by the Justice Department, preventing a judicial review of the propriety of the request.
In a split decision, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favour of Flynn and the Trump administration in preventing US District Judge Emmet Sullivan from exercising his discretion on whether to grant the department’s motion to clear Flynn , who twice pleaded guilty.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign, had been seeking to withdraw his 2017 guilty plea in which he admitted to lying to the FBI about interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the US in the weeks before Trump took office.
US Justice Department drops charges against former Trump adviser
Flynn’s lawyers, both in court and in public, argued that he was ambushed as part of a plot by biased investigators and that the case should be dismissed.
Trump said in March that he was considering a pardon for Flynn, who briefly served as the president’s top in-house adviser on national security concerns.
The president tweeted in support of the decision, calling it “Great”, shortly after the ruling was announced.
Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request To Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2020
The US Justice Department said last month it would drop the charges, but US District Judge Emmet Sullivan wanted to scrutinise the decision further.
Judge Neomi Rao, who authored the majority opinion, wrote that a previous ruling in favour of a hearing on the government’s decision to drop the charges would undermine the executive branch’s “exclusive prosecutorial power.”
Judge Robert Wilkins wrote in the dissent that it “It is a great irony that, in finding the District Court to have exceeded its jurisdiction, this Court so grievously oversteps its own.”
In seeking to have the case dismissed, the Justice Department said that the FBI had insufficient basis to question Flynn in the first place and that statements he made during the interview were not material to the broader counterintelligence investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The department said that dismissing the case was in the interest of justice, and that it was following the recommendation of a United States attorney who had been appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the handling of the Flynn investigation.
This is a developing story. More soon.
Al Jazeera and news agencies