President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, bringing to an end a nearly three-year legal battle that began with the retired general’s guilty plea as part of the special counsel’s probe.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted.
It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2020
Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017 to making false statements to the FBI during a White House interview on Jan. 24, 2017, regarding phone conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn admitted as part of his plea agreement that he lied to investigators when he said he did not ask Kislyak during a Dec. 29, 2016, phone call to refrain from escalating a diplomatic standoff with the U.S. President Obama had days earlier ordered the removal of 35 Russian diplomats over the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The FBI had been investigating Flynn and three other Trump campaign advisers since August 2016, as part of Crossfire Hurricane.
The Justice Department also investigated Flynn’s lobbying in 2016 on behalf of the Turkish government. Flynn admitted as part of his plea deal to making false statements in filings he submitted to the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Flynn reiterated his guilty plea during a court hearing in December 2018, but he began angling months later to withdraw from the agreement.
He said in a court filing on Jan. 29, 2019, that he did not intentionally lie to the FBI about his calls with Kislyak, and that he regretted pleading guilty. He said he struck a deal with the government in order to protect his son from possible criminal prosecution in relation to their lobbying for Turkey.
After Flynn retracted his claim of guilt, Attorney General William Barr tapped Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for Missouri, to review the handling of Flynn’s case.
The Justice Department filed a motion on May 7, to drop charges against Flynn, citing evidence that the FBI had withheld from Flynn’s legal team.
The Justice Department has since released FBI documents showing that the bureau planned to close a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn on Jan. 4, 2017, due to a lack of evidence that he was a secret agent of Russia.
FBI officials intervened to keep the investigation of Flynn open after receiving a transcript of the retired Army general’s calls with Kislyak.
The lead FBI agent on Flynn’s case, William Barnett, questioned FBI officials’ rationale for continuing the Flynn investigation.
Barnett told Jensen during a Sept. 17 interview that he believed the FBI’s counterintelligence case against Flynn was weak, and that he saw no evidence that Flynn was working with Russians.
Barnett also said that prosecutors on the special counsel’s team had a “get Trump” attitude.
The status of Flynn’s case has remained in limbo for months as the judge presiding over the case, Emmet Sullivan, has appealed the Justice Department request to drop charges.
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