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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.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Dec 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Why Trump may still fire Barr

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorney General Barr may be fired or resign, as President Trump seethes about Barr's statement this week that no widespread voter fraud has been found.

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with the president's thinking tells Axios that Trump remains frustrated with what he sees as the lack of a vigorous investigation into his election conspiracy theories.

Dec 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton says Attorney General Bill Barr has done more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying publicly that the Justice Department has yet to see widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said in a Wednesday phone interview.

37 mins ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.