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Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Editor's note: After this story was published, the Justice Department revealed it was dropping its prosecution of Michael Flynn. Read the full story here.

Brandon Van Grack, a former member of special counsel Robert Mueller's team, moved to withdraw from the Justice Department's prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Thursday. He did not provide a reason for his withdrawal.

Why it matters: Van Grack leads a team that has been accused by Flynn's attorneys of prosecutorial misconduct. New FBI documents stemming from Flynn's move to withdraw his 2017 guilty plea have amplified conservative claims that prosecutors sought to entrap the former top Trump aide into lying about his conversations with the former Russian ambassador.

The big picture: Attorney General Bill Barr appointed an outside prosecutor in February to examine the case against Flynn, which both President Trump and Vice President Pence have weighed in on in recent days.

  • Flynn was forced to resign from the administration for misleading Pence and later pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about speaking to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, which the Obama administration had imposed for election interference.
  • President Trump has said he is "strongly considering" a full pardon for Flynn, and has tweeted repeatedly about the unfair treatment he alleges Flynn has received.
  • Last week, Trump said that he would consider bringing Flynn back into the administration, claiming his former national security adviser is "essentially exonerated."

Van Grack and the team prosecuting Flynn have denied wrongdoing. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flashback: In February, the Justice Department overruled career prosecutors who were seeking a 7-9 year prison sentence for Roger Stone, another former Trump adviser charged in the Mueller investigation. The decision prompted all four prosecutors who tried Stone to withdraw from the case.

Go deeper: New Flynn revelations heighten Trump's discontent with FBI director Wray

Go deeper

Former FBI advisor expected to plead guilty for falsifying email in Trump campaign probe

President Trump briefs reporters on August 14. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kevin Clinesmith, who gave legal support to the FBI as it investigated ties between President Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, is expected to plead guilty to falsifying a key document in the agency's probe, the New York Times reports, citing court documents made public on Friday.

Why it matters: The charging documents do not show any evidence that Clinesmith's actions were part of a broad conspiracy to undermine the president, per the Times.

Local news moves to the inbox

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A slew of new companies are launching platforms for local newsletters, a shift that could help finally bring the local news industry into the digital era.

Driving the news: Substack, the email publishing platform for independent journalists, on Thursday announced a new local news platform.

J&J vaccine pause hurts its reputation

Reproduced from Economist/YouGov poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans' confidence in the safety of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine took a big dip this week after the pause in its use, per new YouGov polling, even though the risk of blood clots following the shot is extremely low, if it exists at all.

Why it matters: For the majority of people, particularly high-risk Americans, getting the J&J shot is almost certainly less dangerous than remaining vulnerable to the coronavirus.