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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

Nov 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump with Michael Flynn in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped Tuesday night.

10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional Hispanics want Lujan Grisham at HHS

Michelle Lujan Grisham arriving on Capitol Hill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Hispanic lawmakers are openly lobbying to have New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham be named Health and Human Services secretary, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: These members are now following the example some Black lawmakers have used for weeks: trying to convince Joe Biden his political interests will be served by rewarding certain demographic groups with Cabinet picks.

3 hours ago - World

Map: A look at world population density in 3D

This fascinating map is made by Alasdair Rae of Sheffield, England, a former professor of urban studies who is the founder of Automatic Knowledge. It shows world population density in 3D.

Details: "No land is shown on the map, only the locations where people actually live. ... The higher the spike, the more people live in an area. Where there are no spikes, there are no people (e.g. you can clearly identify ... the Sahara Desert)."