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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.

Go deeper

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight model gives Trump 27% chance of re-election

FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that his forecast for the 2020 election finds that President Trump currently has a 27% chance of defeating Joe Biden.

The big picture: Biden has an 8.7-point lead on President Trump in FiveThirtyEight's average of national polls. The president has seen his poll numbers tank since the coronavirus pandemic began, and as Americans took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd in cities around the country.

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.