President Donald Trump has pardoned former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to the FBI about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the US at the time.
But after he initially cooperated with prosecutors, Flynn shook up his legal team and took a more combative stance against the Justice Department, accusing it of entrapment and moving to withdraw his guilty plea.
The Justice Department later moved to drop its case against Flynn, prompting the resignation of one of the prosecutors in the case and drawing backlash from law-enforcement veterans.
Now that Flynn has been pardoned, he can no longer invoke the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination, which means he can be compelled to testify before a jury or risk being charged with contempt of court.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
"It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!" Trump tweeted.
Flynn's lawyer Sidney Powell notified Politico's Kyle Cheney of the news shortly before Trump tweeted it out. Now that the former national security advisor has been pardoned, he can no longer invoke the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination and can be compelled to testify before a jury or risk being charged with contempt of court.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to investigators as part of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, he admitted to misleading FBI investigators in a January 2017 interview about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the US at the time, during the 2016 transition period.
—Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) November 25, 2020
Flynn initially cooperated with the FBI after pleading guilty, and prosecutors praised him for giving them useful information related to several ongoing criminal investigations in addition to the Russia inquiry.
But he later decided to take a more combative stance, firing his entire defense team and replacing it with Powell, who often spouts conspiracy theories and accuses the Justice Department and FBI of running a "deep-state" plot against Flynn and Trump.
Since taking over as Flynn's defense lawyer, Powell has worked overtime to try to get his case dismissed, and Trump's pardon on Wednesday is an unprecedented intervention by a president in the case of a political ally who repeatedly acknowledged his guilt under oath.
Flynn in January filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea in the Russia investigation, citing what he alleged was "the government's bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement."
'The defendant now professes his innocence'
Shortly afterward, the Justice Department reversed its recommendation for Flynn to receive only probation and asked a federal judge to sentence him to up to six months in prison. It made the request because it said Flynn was no longer showing the remorse he once did when it initially made a sentencing recommendation and that he had now taken on a more defensive posture.
"Far from accepting the consequences of his unlawful actions, he has sought to blame almost every other person and entity involved in his case, including his former counsel," prosecutors wrote in a memo to US District Judge Emmet Sullivan. "Most blatantly, the defendant now professes his innocence."
But in May, the department filed a motion to drop the Flynn case altogether, a move that prompted the resignation of one of the prosecutors overseeing the case and drew swift backlash from law-enforcement veterans who accused Attorney General William Barr of showing leniency toward the president's allies. People in Trump's orbit, on the other hand, celebrated the decision and said it was proof that Flynn was inappropriately targeted by the Obama administration because of his ties to Trump.
The president has repeatedly accused the FBI and Department of Justice of entrapment in the Flynn case and, more broadly, of engineering the Russia investigation to undermine Trump's presidency and illegally requesting that Flynn's name be "unmasked" in intelligence reports.
But that conspiracy theory, dubbed "Obamagate," got blown to pieces in May, when The Washington Post reported that Flynn's name was never masked in the first place. That month, Barr tapped US Attorney John Bash to review "unmasking" allegations related to the Flynn case amid pressure from the president and Flynn's allies. But in October, in another blow to Trump, the investigation ended without any criminal charges or a public report.
Sullivan halted the DOJ's efforts to drop the case and said that because of its political nature, he wanted third parties to weigh in as he considered the motion. One of those outside experts, the former federal judge and veteran prosecutor John Gleeson, later filed a brief in the case saying the DOJ engaged in "highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President."
Democrats recoil while Republicans rejoice
Reactions to Flynn's pardon began pouring in almost as soon as the president announced the news.
Democrats excoriated Trump, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying in a statement that Flynn's pardon was "an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power."
Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who led Trump's impeachment proceedings, tweeted that the president "has repeatedly abused the pardon power to reward friends and protect those who covered up for him."
—Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 25, 2020
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which impeached Trump last year, said in a statement that "this pardon is undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump's rapidly diminishing legacy."
—House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) November 25, 2020
Rep. Ted Lieu, one of the president's most ardent critics, tweeted that Flynn "gets special treatment no ordinary person gets" because "he is a friend" of the president.
—Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) November 25, 2020
Republicans and the right-wing media sphere, meanwhile, applauded the president's actions.
—Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) November 25, 2020
The Fox News host Sean Hannity, who is one of the network's biggest Trump boosters, tweeted, "Happy Thanksgiving to General Flynn and the Flynn family. The way this war hero and his family were treated by the Government of the US, the deep state, and democrats has been a repulsive injustice."
—Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) November 25, 2020
"God bless President Donald Trump and General Michael Flynn!" Mark Levin, a far-right talk-show host who's known to air conspiracy theories, tweeted.
And Jonathan Turley, a Republican lawyer who testified for the president during his impeachment proceedings, said Flynn's pardon "should not have been an issue since the DOJ asked many months ago for the case to be dropped."
—Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) November 25, 2020
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