In one of the final major legal battles connected to criminal charges against allies of President Donald Trump in connection to the Russia investigation, one former federal judge has now handed down a harsh condemnation of the Trump team’s behavior. The Justice Department abruptly filed a motion to drop the government’s case against former Trump administration official Michael Flynn, who’d previously pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators. Now, in a new court filing, former federal judge John Gleeson counters that the Justice Department’s abandonment of the case against Flynn is brazenly “corrupt.” No facts changed in between the charges against Flynn and Attorney General Bill Barr’s team’s decision to drop the case; the Trump team simply concluded that the Flynn case was not worth pursuing.
Wow. Former Judge Gleeson does not mince words in his brief in the Michael Flynn case, calling DOJ's decision to drop charges "corrupt" and "highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President." https://t.co/3m9mRxsGH3 pic.twitter.com/TxEs3S1oMy
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) June 10, 2020
Gleeson was a federal judge in Manhattan until 2016, and before his time on the bench, he was a federal prosecutor who took on targets like the mob. POLITICO notes that he “was appointed last month by [Judge Emmet Sullivan] to help him tackle the highly unusual Justice Department request to drop the criminal case against Flynn despite the guilty plea he entered back in 2017 as part of a cooperation deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.”
In his new court filing, Gleeson recommended that the judge sentence Flynn despite the government’s motion to drop the proceedings. Gleeson called the government’s motion to drop Flynn’s case a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power,” adding in reference to the government’s claims about the supposed need to drop Flynn’s case:
‘Even recognizing that the Government is entitled to deference in assessing the strength of its case, these claims are not credible. Indeed, they are preposterous… The facts surrounding the filing of the Government’s motion constitute clear evidence of gross prosecutorial abuse. They reveal an unconvincing effort to disguise as legitimate a decision to dismiss that is based solely on the fact that Flynn is a political ally of President Trump.’
Many observers have frequently wondered whether the president would issue a pardon for Flynn.
In his filing, Gleeson acknowledged that a presidential pardon was a possibility — albeit an implicitly corrupt one — but he condemned the Trump team for trying to rope in the federal courts in letting Flynn off the hook for his admitted crimes.
As Gleeson put it:
‘President Trump today has the unreviewable authority to issue a pardon, thus ensuring that Flynn is no longer prosecuted and never punished for his crimes because he is a friend and political ally. But the instant the Executive Branch filed a criminal charge against Flynn, it forfeited the right to implicate this Court in the dismissal of that charge simply because Flynn is a friend and political ally of the President.’
The final decision for what to do with the Flynn case does not entirely rest with Judge Sullivan, it seems. A D.C. federal appeals court is slated to soon hear arguments in a case that Flynn’s attorneys have brought trying to compel Judge Sullivan to go ahead and drop the case.