Federal Judge Fact-Checks Trump’s Ability To Pardon Michael Flynn

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On Friday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton suggested that fellow federal Judge Emmet Sullivan could conclude that President Donald Trump’s recent pardon of Michael Flynn was “too broad.” As Walton put it, Sullivan could take “the position that the wording of the pardon is too broad, in that it provides protections beyond the date of the pardon.” Specifically, Trump’s pardon for Flynn covers “any and all possible offenses” stemming from information that the federal government has gathered against him. Trump issued this pardon some time after the Justice Department, as led by Attorney General Bill Barr, moved to drop its case against Flynn altogether, but Sullivan has not granted this motion.

Walton said, in part, as follows:

‘I don’t know what impact that would have, what decision [Sullivan] would make, if he makes that determination that the pardon of Mr. Flynn is for a period that the law does not permit. I don’t know if that’s correct or not. Theoretically, the decision could be reached because the wording in the pardon seems to be very, very broad. It could be construed, I think, as extending protections against criminal prosecutions after the date the pardon was issued. I don’t know if Judge Sullivan will make that determination or not.’

Walton made his comments in a public records case in which CNN and Buzzfeed News “want the records from Flynn’s FBI interviews to be reprocessed in light of the pardon, revealing information that was initially shielded due to an exemption tied to ongoing prosecutions,” as Law.com explains. Walton ordered the release of re-processed Flynn records by January 15, insisting that he wanted the records handled with the Trump administration in place. Courtney Enlow, an attorney with the Department of Justice, had asked for a deadline of February.

Recently, a report emerged in The New York Times stating that President Trump had discussed the possibility of issuing preemptive pardons for his three oldest children — meaning Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric — along with his prominent ally, Rudy Giuliani, who has participated in the Trump’s campaign’s election results fight. Were Sullivan to determine that Trump’s pardon of Flynn was too broad, then a similar determination could — maybe — apply to preemptive pardons that Trump might issue for his family members. It’s unclear what potential criminal proceedings against Ivanka, Rudy, and the others that the president might even have in mind. What crimes might he think that they could be charged with? What does he know?