The Justice Department has moved to drop its case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
The development comes after internal memos were released raising serious questions about the nature of the investigation that led to Flynn’s 2017 guilty plea of lying to the FBI.
According to Fox News, the announcement came in a court filing, with the department saying it is dropping the case “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information.”
The DOJ said it had concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
The final determination to dismiss the case will come from the judge assigned to oversee it.
The retired Army lieutenant general has been trying to withdraw his plea, but the case has been plodding through the court system with no resolution ever since his original plea.
The DOJ decision would appear to put an end to that process.
Earlier Thursday, the top prosecutor on the case, Brandon Van Grack, abruptly withdrew from the case, without explanation.
Documents unsealed a week ago by the Justice Department revealed agents discussed their motivations for interviewing him in the Russia probe—questioning whether they wanted to“get him to lie” so he’d be fired or prosecuted, or get him to admit wrongdoing. Flynn allies howled over the revelations, arguing that he was essentially set up in a perjury trap. In that interview, Flynn did not admit wrongdoing and instead was accused of lying about his contacts with the then-Russian ambassador – to which he pleaded guilty.
The latest DOJ filing stated noted Flynn’s false statement plea pertains to a crime that requires a statement “to be not simply false, but ‘materially’ false with respect to a matter under investigation.” The filing said the government “is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue.”
The U.S. attorney reviewing the Flynn case, Jeff Jensen, recommended dropping the case to Attorney General William Barr last week and formalized the recommendation in a document this week.
Flynn was brought into the Mueller investigation after his interview with investigators and was fired from his prominent post as national security adviser in February 2017. The resignation came as he was accused of misleading Vice President Pence and other senior White House officials about his communications with Kislyak.
Flynn’s communications with Kislyak in December 2016 had been picked up in wiretapped discussions. The FBI agents in January 2017 questioned him on the communications, and later used his answers to form the basis for the false statement charge and his guilty plea.
Flynn’s supporters have insisted he is innocent but was pressured to plead guilty when his son was threatened with prosecution and he exhausted his financial resources. The release of the handwritten FBI notes fueled accusations from Flynn’s defenders that agents did not conduct themselves properly in the case.