President Trump pardons Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn

President Trump announced a pardon for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn on Wednesday, bringing to an end a legal saga that began during the 2016 election amid the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” Trump said in a tweet.

General Flynn should not require a pardon. He is an innocent man. Even the FBI agents who interviewed General Flynn did not think he was lying. Multiple investigations have produced evidence establishing that General Flynn was the victim of partisan government officials engaged in a coordinated attempt to subvert the election of 2016. These individuals sought to prevent Donald Trump from being elected to the Presidency, to block him from assuming that office upon his election, to remove him from office after his inauguration, and to undermine his Administration at every turn.

The prosecution of General Flynn is yet another reminder of something that has long been clear: After the 2016 election, individuals within the outgoing administration refused to accept the choice the American people had made at the ballot box and worked to undermine the peaceful transition of power. These efforts were enabled by a complicit media that willingly published falsehoods and hid inconvenient facts from public view, including with respect to General Flynn. They amounted to a brazen assault on our democracy and a direct attack on our fundamental political values.

Flynn, 61, fought to dismiss the government’s case against him this year after he pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to investigators about his December 2016 conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak related to Russia’s response to the Obama administration kicking Russians out of the United States as retaliation for Russian election interference and related to a U.N. resolution on Israel.

The U.S. government intercepted Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak, after which now-fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI agent Joseph Pientka grilled him on the contents of the conversation on Jan. 24, 2017.

Flynn told the court in January that he was “innocent of this crime.” He filed to withdraw his guilty plea after the Justice Department asked the judge to sentence him to up to six months in prison — though, afterward, the department said probation would also be appropriate. The Justice Department later moved to drop the charges in May, following a deep-dive review by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeffrey Jensen. The DOJ said that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice.”

Instead, presiding Judge Emmet Sullivan, an appointee of President Bill Clinton who has handled the Flynn case since December 2017, appointed retired New York judge John Gleeson to present arguments in opposition to the Justice Department’s motion and to explore whether Flynn should be charged with perjury or contempt.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a three-judge appeals court panel decision in late August and denied Flynn’s effort to have the case against him swiftly dropped. The decision threw the case back to Sullivan, but the appeals court did tell the judge that “as the underlying criminal case resumes, in the District Court, we trust and expect the District Court to proceed with appropriate dispatch.” Sullivan had refused to dismiss it.

“We would have preferred to see if Judge Sullivan would act and for the matter to be resolved in court. We were confident in the likelihood of our success in the case,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told the Washington Examiner. “That being said, this is obviously an appropriate use of the president’s pardon power.”

Kupec also said the Justice Department was not consulted about the decision to pardon Flynn. “We were given a heads-up today,” she said.

Flynn’s lawyers, led by Sidney Powell since last summer, argued in October that Sullivan’s “increasingly hostile and unprecedented words and deeds in what has become his own prosecution of General Flynn mandate his disqualification.” Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall said in August that the Justice Department “reluctantly” believed that Sullivan might need to be removed because he seemed to have “prejudged” some of the questions in the case. During a September hearing, Powell said she had spoken with Trump to give him an “update” on her client’s case and claimed the only request she made was that he “not issue a pardon” to Flynn.

Powell appeared on Fox Business and thanked Trump. She also called the pardon “bittersweet,” claiming that the justice system did not work properly.

In a statement, Flynn’s family said they are “grateful” to Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation by removing the heavy burden of injustice off the shoulders of our brother Michael, with a full pardon of innocence.”