Judge Says Pardon Doesn’t Mean Michael Flynn is Innocent
Michael Flynn may have received a pardon from Donald Trump and no longer can be prosecuted for admittedly lying in an FBI interview, but that doesn’t mean he’s innocent. That’s the opinion of U.S. District Judge Emmett G. Sullivan who Tuesday dismissed the prosecution against Flynn.
Sullivan wrote, “President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one. Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot. However, the pardon ‘does not, standing along, render [Mr. Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation.'”
Flynn, who served just 22 days as Trump’s national security adviser before being fired, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents and senior White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his pre-inauguration conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergy Kislyak.
The Justice Department and Flynn’s defense had requested the dismissal of the prosecution after Trump’s “full and unconditional pardon” was issued on Nov. 25.
In closing out the case, Sullivan’s 43-page ruling made clear he didn’t believe either Flynn or the Justice Department. He said he is troubled by the government’s “dubious” rationales for recommending that that charges against Flynn be dropped. “As this case has progressed, President Trump has not hidden the extent of his interest in this case,” making note of the fact that Trump tweeted or retweeted about the case at least 100 times. “Given this context, the new legal positions the government took … raise questions regarding its motives in moving to dismiss.”
The judge also made clear he didn’t buy the argument put forth by Flynn and the government that Flynn had a “faulty memory” about his conversations with Kislyak.
“Mr. Flynn is not just anyone; he was the National Security Advisor to the President, clearly in a position of trust, who claimed that he forgot, within less than a month, that he personally asked for a favor from the Russian Ambassador that undermined the policy of the sitting President prior to the President-Elect taking office,” Sullivan wrote.
While acknowledging that presidential pardon power is nearly absolute, Sullivan also noted that the Supreme Court in 1915 said it “carries an imputation of guilt.”