Sep 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ex-judge says Trump "pressure campaigns" led to DOJ reversal in Flynn case

Bill Barr adjusts his glasses while wearing a suit and tie

Attorney General William Barr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on July 28. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A retired judge appointed to review the Justice Department's motion to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn said on Friday that calling the agency's actions "irregular," which he did in June, "would be a study in understatement."

Why it matters: Trump's allies have viewed Attorney General Bill Barr's move to withdraw charges against Flynn as the first major step in exposing the Russia investigation as a political hit job. Democrats fear Barr is weaponizing the Justice Department ahead of the election.

The big picture: The DOJ in May moved to drop its prosecution of Flynn, who pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with the former Russian ambassador.

  • U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had asked John Gleeson to present arguments for why the Justice Department’s request to drop the case should be denied.

What he's saying: "In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty — twice, before two different judges — and whose guilt is obvious," Gleeson wrote.

  • "There is clear evidence that this motion reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system," he added.
  • The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House declined to comment.

Flashback: Gleeson described the agency's actions as "highly irregular" in a similarly scathing brief in June.

  • Legal analysts found Sullivan's move to enlist Gleeson as "highly unusual" and, taken with his move to hear outside arguments on the DOJ's reversal, suggested disagreement with the agency's handling of Flynn's case, the New York Times reported in May.

Read the full filing.

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