Former national security adviser Michael Flynn exits a vehicle as he arrives for his sentencing hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, December 18, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
A former federal judge said in a court filing Friday that the Justice Department’s unusual effort to dismiss its prosecution of former national security advisor Michael Flynn seems like a “corrupt and politically motivated favor” done after pressure by President Donald Trump.
Former judge John Gleeson’s harsh words came as he said that the judge in Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan, both has the right to reject the Justice Department’s request to drop the case, and should do so and then sentence Flynn for his crime of lying to the FBI.
Gleeson, who is now an attorney in private practice, was appointed by Sullivan earlier this year to argue against the Justice Department’s effort, which is pending in Washington federal court.
In his filing, Gleeson wrote that the Justice Department in its own court records seeking a dismissal “makes virtually no effort to deny or rebut the powerful evidence that its … motion improperly seeks to place this Court’s imprimatur on a corrupt, politically motivated favor for the President’s friend and ally.”
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who briefly served as Trump’s national security advisor, pleaded guilty nearly three years ago to lying to FBI agents about his discussions with a Russian diplomat in the weeks leading up to Trump’s inauguration.
He has yet to be sentenced in the case. For more than a year, he has tried to undo his conviction by arguing misconduct by prosecutors and the FBI.
The Justice Department until several months ago had fought against Flynn’s effort. But then it abruptly asked that the case be dismissed.
Then-interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, argued in the dismissal request that the FBI’s interview of Flynn was not justified by a counterintelligence investigation and that his lies about what he said to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak were not “material” to that probe.
The dismissal came after Trump repeatedly criticized the prosecution of Flynn, even though he had fired Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about what he had discussed with Kislyak.
Gleeson cited that criticism as he blasted the Justice Department for failing to mention in its own court filings the effect of Trump’s comments.
“The Government does not disagree with any of this — presumably because it cannot. Indeed, the Government nowhere even mentions the President’s personal lobbying, let alone his virulent attacks on those previously involved in this prosecution,” Gleeson.
“Based entirely on evidence already in the public view, the only coherent explanation for the Government’s exceedingly irregular motion — as well as its demonstrable pretexts — is that the Justice Department has yielded to a pressure campaign led by the President for his political associate.”
Gleeson also wrote: “The Government has now had two chances to explain why its sudden doubt that Flynn lied is worthy of credence.”
“It has failed. It is not entitled to leave of court on this basis,” he added.
Flynn’s lawyers and the Justice Department earlier this year asked a federal appeals court to force Sullivan to dismiss that case after he failed to quickly grant the request, and after he appointed Gleeson to make arguments opposing the bid.
An appeals court panel ruled in Flynn’s favor, and directed that the case be tossed.
But Sullivan appealed that decision. And the full appeals court soon after reversed the panel’s ruling, saying that Sullivan should be first allowed to rule on the dismissal request one way or the other. Flynn can appeal Sullivan’s ruling if the judge refuses to toss the case.
Sullivan is expected to hear arguments on the dismissal request later this month.
A lawyer for Flynn, and a spokeswoman for the Justice Department did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment about Gleeson’s court filing.