Michael Flynn. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images
Attorney General Bill Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to monitor the Justice Department's ongoing case against President Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the New York Times reports.
Why it matters: The move could trigger additional accusations of political interference at the Justice Department, especially for extremely sensitive cases involving former Trump allies.
- It adds "a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the Washington office," the Times notes.
- The new team on the Flynn case includes members from the office of Jeffrey Jensen of the U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis — and as well as other members from the office of the deputy attorney general.
- Jensen's team has been asked "to look into Flynn's FBI interview," according to NBC News.
The state of play: Flynn's sentencing has been indefinitely postponed after he filed court papers last month to withdraw his guilty plea related to allegedly lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., blaming the government's "bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement."
The big picture: The president's relationship with Barr and the Justice Department has come under scrutiny over the past week due to developments in the Roger Stone case.
- Four prosecutors who tried Stone in November withdrew from the case after the Justice Department overruled their original sentencing recommendation of 7–9 years for the political operative.
- Trump tweeted that the original recommendation was a "miscarriage of justice." He later told reporters that he didn't speak to the Justice Department about the case, but that he would have "the absolute right" to.
- Trump withdrew his nomination for former U.S. attorney for D.C. Jessie Liu to serve in a top Treasury Department position. While at the Justice Department, she oversaw a number of politically charged prosecutions that included the case against Trump associates.
- Barr told ABC News in an interview Thursday that Trump's "constant background commentary" about the Justice Department "makes it impossible for me to do my job" — particularly blaming the president's tweets.
- And earlier Friday, Trump tweeted that he has "the legal right" to ask Barr to intervene in criminal cases, saying that he has "so far chosen not to."
The other side: The DOJ declined Friday to bring charges against former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe in an investigation into whether he lied to investigators about a press leak.
- McCabe and Trump have had a turbulent relationship since Trump took office.
- The Times notes that the decision "appears to be a sign that [Barr] wants to show that the Justice Department is independent from" the president.