May 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama raises alarm that "rule of law is at risk" after DOJ drops prosecution of Michael Flynn

In this image, Obama sits in a chair and holds a microphone
Obama speaks at an Obama Foundation event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 2019. Photo: Zahim Mohd/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama is concerned that the "basic understanding of the rule of law is at risk" due to the Justice Department dropping charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, he said in a private phone call with former members of his administration obtained by Yahoo News.

Driving the news: Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Friday accused Attorney General Bill Barr of doing President Trump's "political bidding" by interfering in criminal cases, including the DOJ's prosecution of Flynn.

  • House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he plans to schedule a hearing with Barr "as soon as possible" in response to the decision.

What he's saying: "The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn," Obama told members of the Obama Alumni Association, per an audio recording from Yahoo News.

  • “And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic, not just institutional norms, but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places."
  • Obama also said he was invested in the 2020 presidential election, telling former administration members "we got to make this happen."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Margaret Talev: This is another sign of Obama's personal engagement in the 2020 election to help former Vice President Joe Biden.

Flashback: Obama reportedly warned Trump against hiring Flynn to his national security team shortly after the 2016 election, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other outlets reported in 2017, citing former Obama administration officials.

Representatives for Obama and for the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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