Although the Trump appointee-led Department of Justice has attempted to entirely drop the case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the case is far from over. Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has been handling the case, has challenged the government’s motion to drop the case, and now, the D.C.-area federal appeals court has agreed to an en banc review of the situation, meaning that all judges on the court will participate in the proceedings. This development follows an earlier hearing involving just three of the court’s judges, which in turned followed a motion from Flynn’s team attempting to compel Sullivan to drop the case. That first three-judge panel initially ruled for Flynn and ordered Sullivan to drop the proceedings, but that earlier ruling has now been vacated by the full court.
The full D.C. appeals court will hear oral arguments in the case over whether or not Sullivan must drop the Flynn proceedings on August 11. Sullivan has previously appointed retired federal judge John Gleeson to prepare a counter-argument to the government’s demands to drop the Flynn case, and Gleeson — who also spent some time as a federal prosecutor — subsequently hammered the Trump administration for what he characterized as a politics-driven decision in the Flynn case.
Gleeson called the Justice Department’s motion to drop the case against Flynn “highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the president,” adding:
‘Only by acting as a rubber stamp could the court presume that all of this is regular and that the government’s reasons here are anything but pretextual.’
It’s not the first occasion in which the Trump appointees at the Department of Justice have tried to spearhead smoothing the path for Trump allies. For example, higher-ups at the department also previously intervened to lower the sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, whose sentence Trump eventually commuted entirely, ensuring that Stone did not have to serve a single day of his sentence.
In this case, although Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his communications with a Russian ambassador to the United States, Attorney General Bill Barr recently claimed to Congress that “the evidence is not there to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.” What else do they need? A message in the clouds that says “Flynn is guilty”? Barr told House members:
‘I agree the president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people and sometimes that is a different decision to make… but that is what rule of law is… We don’t think any of the U.S. attorneys in the department would have prosecuted this case, partly because of the behavior of the FBI but also because the evidence is not there to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.’
What’s clear is that — no matter the facts at hand — Trump and his allies have consistently tried to cast doubt on the Russia investigation. They’ve characterized it as some sort of “witch hunt,” no matter the ample documentation of Russian interference in U.S. elections and the Trump team’s own benefiting from it.