A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in the District of Columbia on Wednesday ordered the federal trial judge overseeing the criminal case against retired General Michael Flynn to allow the Department of Justice to drop the case.
Flynn was formerly appointed as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor and was part of the Trump transition team. The outgoing Obama administration, however, was monitoring Flynn’s communications with the Russian government. The Obama administration in its waning days increased sanctions against Russia for its occupation of parts of eastern Ukraine.
They accused Flynn of undermining the then-U.S. foreign policy and began an investigation of Flynn under the seldom-used Logan Act. Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI agents who were investigating the Logan Act complaint. In December 2019, Flynn moved to withdraw his plea, citing inadequate legal counsel, among other reasons.
Following an internal review of the investigation, U.S. Attorney General William Barr made a motion in May that the Department of Justice drop the charges against Flynn.
The presiding judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan did not immediately accept the DOJ motion; but instead appointed an outside counsel, former federal Judge John Gleeson to represent the case against Flynn at a hearing to scrutinize the DOJ decision to vacate all charges against Flynn. Flynn’s legal team filed an emergency petition for a writ of mandamus with the appeals court to order Sullivan to approve the motion to dismiss the case. The Appeals Court found in favor of Flynn and the DOJ on Wednesday. The Court of Appeals decision ruled that Sullivan overstepped his authority and ordered: “The district court is directed to grant the government’s motion to dismiss.”
The 2 to 1 decision by the three judge panel blocks Judge Sullivan from holding his planned hearing to scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop its long-running prosecution of Flynn.
The two Republican-appointed judges both ruled in Flynn’s favor and found that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan overstepped his authority in second-guessing the prosecutors’ decision.
“In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power,” Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed to the circuit court by President Trump, wrote in the majority opinion. “If evidence comes to light calling into question the integrity or purpose of an underlying criminal investigation, the Executive Branch must have the authority to decide that further prosecution is not in the interest of justice,”
Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee, dissented from the decision.
“It is a great irony that, in finding the District Court to have exceeded its jurisdiction, this Court so grievously oversteps its own,” Wilkins wrote. “This appears to be the first time that we have issued a writ of mandamus to compel a district court to rule in a particular manner on a motion without first giving the lower court a reasonable opportunity to issue its own ruling.”
Congressional candidate and former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, applauded the decision.
“I applaud the ruling by the Court of Appeals in General Flynn’s case,” Moore said. “Finally, this great patriot has received justice. He was caught up in the political-motivated witch hunt of the Muller investigation, but now his legal nightmare is finally over.”
Moore compared Flynn’s situation to his own 2014 trial on perjury charges brought by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. A jury found Moore not guilty.
“Our prayers are with General Flynn and his family today, and I believe that they will come out of this stronger than ever, just as my family did,” Moore concluded.
Alabama Republican Executive Committee and Trump National Victory Finance Committee member former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., R-Montgomery, also applauded the news of Gen. Flynn’s court victory.
“It was a Great Day for the American Justice System,” Hooper said. “I join the President applauding the Appeals Court’s decision as “GREAT”.”
“I am thrilled for General Flynn and his family that this three year ordeal is finally coming to an end,” Hooper said. “This was a political witch hunt. Bad actors tried to ruin this great man both personally and financially. He has now been exonerated.”
”I think the President should give him a chance to once again serve his Country,” Hooper said. “Comey and the others involved should now have to face the consequences for their roles in this matter. It has also come to light that Joe Biden knew about this plot all along.”
(Original reporting by the Hill and the Washington Post contributed to this report.)