Dec 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judge dismisses case against Michael Flynn after Trump pardon

Michael Flynn leaves a courthouse
Flynn at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C, on Dec. 18, 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the case against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday, declaring it moot after President Trump's pardon last week.

Why it matters: The move by Sullivan, who has been targeted by Trump allies for his refusal to immediately dismiss the case after the Justice Department requested that he do so, brings an end to a three-year prosecution in which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

What they're saying: "President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one. Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot," Sullivan wrote in his opinion.

  • "[A] pardon does not necessarily render “innocent” a defendant of any alleged violation of the law. Indeed, the Supreme Court has recognized that the acceptance of a pardon implies a “confession” of guilt," Sullivan continued.
  • On the question of whether he would have dismissed the case had Trump not issued a pardon, Sullivan wrote that the Justice Department's stated rationales for dropping the charges are "dubious to say the least, arguably overcoming the strong presumption of regularity that usually attaches to prosecutorial decisions."

The big picture: Trump's pardon of Flynn was the first of several expected in the coming weeks, as Axios first reported. Trump is blindly discussing giving pardons "like Christmas gifts" to people who haven't even asked, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations told Axios.

Read the opinion.

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