WASHINGTON — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday ordered a federal judge to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn effective immediately.
Flynn, who served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, had been accused of lying to the FBI about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration, who had sought to prevent U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan from exercising his discretion on whether to proceed with the case.
“In this case, the district court’s actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the executive branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power,” wrote Judge Neomi Rao. “The contemplated proceedings would likely require the Executive to reveal the internal deliberative process behind its exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was one of several former Trump aides charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. He had twice plead guilty to the charge.
In his dissent, Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama administration appointee, said the Justice Department’s handling of the case raised questions that merited further scrutiny by the District Court.
“In 2017, the then-Acting Attorney General told the Vice President that Flynn’s false statements ‘posed a potential compromise situation for Flynn’ with the Russians,” Wilkins wrote. “Now, in a complete reversal, the government says none of this is true.”
“This is no mere about-face; it is more akin to turning around an aircraft carrier.”
When reached for comment, a Justice Department spokesperson said the agency was “happy” with the court’s decision.