Trump pardons former national security adviser Flynn

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Trump psrdons Michael Flynn, former national security adviser. President Donald Trump announced Flynn's pardon on Wednesday via Twitter. It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon, Donald Trump, via Twitter. Trump's former national security adviser pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI ... ... about conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak in December of 2016. Flynn is the only White House official to be convicted of crimes connected to the Mueller investigation. The investigation sought to uncover possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to ensure Trump's election in 2016. Under Attorney General William Barr, the Justice Department recently sought to withdraw the charges against Flynn. Trump's pardon brings an end to Flynn's case

Pleaded guilty twice as a result of Russia investigation

President Donald Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, taking direct aim in the final days of his administration at a Russia investigation that he has long insisted was motivated by political bias.

» OCTOBER: Russian agents targeted Giuliani in effort to influence Trump

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”

» FROM MAY: List names Joe Biden among Obama officials who ‘unmasked’ Trump ally Michael Flynn

Flynn is the second Trump associate convicted in the Russia probe to be granted clemency by the president. Trump commuted the sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone just days before he was to report to prison. It is part of a broader effort to undo the results of an investigation that for years has shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half dozen associates.

The action voids the criminal case against Flynn just as a federal judge was weighing, skeptically, whether to grant a Justice Department request to dismiss the prosecution despite Flynn’s own guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts.

» AUGUST: Senate probe finds Russia ordered 2016 meddling to help Trump

The move, coming as Trump winds down his single term, is likely to energize supporters who have taken up the case as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution. Trump himself has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn, even though special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors once praised him as a model cooperator in their probe into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said the pardon was undeserved and unprincipled.

“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president,” the Democratic congressman said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. "

The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns over the last year after the Justice Department abruptly move to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should have never been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan refuse the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government’s position.

In the months since, a three-judge panel’s decision ordering Sullivan to dismiss the case was overturned by the full appeals court, which sent the matter back to Sullivan. At a hearing in September, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell told the judge that she had discussed the Flynn case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.

Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of the Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team ultimately distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.

The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately decided to reject the Justice Department’s dismissal request. That request was made in May after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.

Flynn acknowledged lying during the FBI interview by saying he had not discussed with the then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that had just been imposed on Russia for election interference by the outgoing Obama administration. During that conversation, Flynn urged Kislyak for Russia to be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the two countries after Trump became president.

The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had coordinated to sway the election’s outcome. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions.

But last May, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position in the case. It said the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, and that any statements he may have made were not relevant to the FBI’s broader counterintelligence probe. It cited internal FBI notes showing that agents had planned to close out their investigation into Flynn weeks earlier.

Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that he had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and that former Obama administration officials had warned the White House that he could be vulnerable to blackmail.

Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first of the president’s aides to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation and cooperated extensively for months. He provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time and suggested that they would be fine with probation.

But on the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behavior from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue cooperating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.

After that, though, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government.

The lawyers accused prosecutors of withholding documents and evidence they said was favorable to the case and repeatedly noted that one of the two agents who interviewed Flynn was fired from the FBI for having sent derogatory text messages about Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Fired in early 2017

Flynn, 61, served just 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser before the president fired him in February 2017 for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn changed his legal team last year and began seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he never lied to investigators and was the target in January 2017 of what his lawyers in court papers called an “ambush-interview” by FBI agents seeking to entrap him. He has since become a hero figure on the pro-Trump right, portrayed as a decorated patriot victimized by the politically motivated Russia “hoax” investigation of Trump.

‘An innocent man’

Trump, who initially distanced himself from Flynn after his firing, has since taken up his cause, calling him “an innocent man” targeted by Obama administration officials trying to “take down a president.”

“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” Trump tweeted in April, weeks before the Justice Department sought to withdraw its charges. After the department acted, Trump tweeted his approval, writing on May 8, “Yesterday was a BIG day for Justice in the USA.”

Sidney Powell

In a late September hearing before Sullivan, a lawyer for Flynn, Sidney Powell, reluctantly admitted that she had recently spoken to Trump about the case, but said she had asked the president not to pardon her client.

Powell has appeared alongside lawyers for Trump, including Rudy Giuliani, to press an unfounded case of election fraud. But after Powell floated a set of particularly wild claims, Giuliani and another lawyer representing the Trump campaign, Jenna Ellis, said in an abrupt statement on Sunday that Powell “is not a member of the Trump legal team.”

Flynn has been awaiting a ruling from Sullivan on the Justice Department’s motion to withdraw its charges. The motion raised alarms among career prosecutors about political influence at the department.

Conversations with Russians

Flynn has said he does not recall his conversations with Kislyak. But transcripts declassified in May show that they were extensive, and that in three phone calls the men discussed how Washington and Moscow might improve ties; how Russia should respond to punitive actions by the outgoing Obama administration in response to Russia’s election interference; and a United Nations resolution to condemn Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Many departing presidents have issued pardons and commutations near the end of their terms. Former President Bill Clinton drew particularly harsh criticism over his pardon of a wealthy Democratic donor in his final White House hours. But Democrats and legal experts fear that Trump will exercise his pardon power with a brazenness that shatters past precedent — possibly even by pardoning himself.

Roger Stone

Trump has already commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, another associate ensnared in the Russia investigation who was convicted on seven felony counts and was to begin a 40-month term in federal prison.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on reporting that Trump has told confidants that he plans to pardon Flynn.

While presidents have traditionally consulted the department on pardons and commutations, they do not need approval from the department in order to issue them. In general, Trump has neither consulted with the department nor pardoned people who have been vetted by the department’s pardons office.

Word of Trump’s intentions came on a day the president presided over the annual White House turkey pardon.

Trump did not answer questions from reporters at the Rose Garden about whether he planned actual pardons before leaving office.

Information provided by The New York Times was used to supplement this report.