Law & the Courts

Federal Judge Hints at Possible Contempt Charge for Flynn

Michael Flynn boards Air Force One at West Palm Beach International airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., February 12, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former national-security adviser Michael Flynn is weighing charges of perjury or contempt for Flynn even as the Justice Department seeks to have the case dismissed.

Judge Emmet Sullivan said he has appointed a former federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s controversial move to dismiss the case against Flynn, who pled guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts but withdrew his guilty plea earlier this year.

Sullivan said Tuesday he will allow third parties to weigh in on the case before dropping the charges and directed a retired judge, John Gleeson, to recommend whether Flynn should receive a criminal contempt charge for perjury. Sullivan’s order directs Gleeson to determine whether Flynn’s admission that he lied to the FBI, which was made under oath on two separate occasion, amounted to perjury, since he later reversed himself and said he never lied to the agents.

Gleeson, a Clinton appointee who served as a federal judge in New York, has expressed suspicion that the DOJ’s move was tainted by political influence.

“Government motions to dismiss at this stage are virtually unheard of,” Gleeson wrote along with several other authors in a Washington Post op-ed published Monday. “There has been nothing regular about the department’s effort to dismiss the Flynn case. The record reeks of improper political influence.”

Flynn was fired by President Trump after the revelation that he made contradictory statements to Vice President Mike Pence about whether he had discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The retired three-star general pled guilty during Trump’s first year in office to making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with the Russian ambassador.  In January, however, he claimed he never lied to investigators.

“I did not lie to them. I believed I was honest with them to the best of my recollection at the time,” Flynn said in a January legal filing. “I still don’t remember if I discussed sanctions on a phone call with Ambassador Kislyak nor do I remember if we discussed the details of a UN vote on Israel.”

“I tried to ‘accept responsibility’ by admitting to offenses I understood the government I love and trusted said I committed,” Flynn added.

The Justice Department said last week that the charges against Flynn should be dropped, arguing that Flynn’s FBI interview in January, 2017 was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”

The case against the former national-security adviser arose from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.

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