- Former President Barack Obama excoriated Justice Department over its decision to drop its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, during a private call with the Obama Alumni Association, Yahoo News reported.
- “There is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free,” Obama said, though he misstated the crime Flynn pleaded guilty to.
- The former national security adviser pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI as part of the Russia probe. After initially cooperating with prosecutors, Flynn hired a more combative defence team that called for a judge to dismiss the case after alleging prosecutorial misconduct.
- “That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic – not just institutional norms – but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk,” Obama reportedly said during the call.
- He added that the Flynn news was one reason why he is “pretty darn invested” in helping former Vice President Joe Biden win the 2020 election. “We got to make it happen,” he said.
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Former President Barack Obama said in a private call that the “rule of law is at risk” after the Justice Department abruptly dropped its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Yahoo News reported.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of making false statements to the FBI during an interview on January 24, 2017, as part of the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and whether members of the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow.
The Justice Department filed a motion Thursday to drop the charges against Flynn, saying it “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.”
Obama said in a private call with members of the Obama Alumni Association that he believed the Flynn news had been “somewhat downplayed.”
“There is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free,” Obama said, though he incorrectly stated Flynn had been charged with perjury, when in fact he was charged with and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
“That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic – not just institutional norms – but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk,” he added. “And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”
Obama reportedly brought up Flynn’s case to emphasise the importance of former Vice President Joe Biden winning the November election.
“So I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do,” Obama said during the call. “Whenever I campaign, I’ve always said, ‘Ah, this is the most important election.’ Especially obviously when I was on the ballot, that always feels like it’s the most important election.”
“This one – I’m not on the ballot – but I am pretty darn invested,” he added. “We got to make this happen.”
The Justice Department’s sudden decision to drop the Flynn case stunned law enforcement veterans and former intelligence officials, while Trump and his allies rejoiced at the news.
The move came after Attorney General William Barr – who critics have described as acting more as Trump’s personal defence lawyer than as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer – tapped an independent prosecutor to review the case against Flynn.
The Associated Press reported that the Trump-appointed prosecutor, Jeff Jensen, recently recommended dropping the case to Barr.
“Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case,” Jensen said in a statement. “I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed.”
Shortly before the Justice Department made its filing seeking to drop the case against Flynn, Brandon Van Grack, one of Mueller’s prosecutors who was assigned to the case since it was opened, withdrew as counsel for the government.
DOJ veterans told Business Insider that although Van Grack didn’t submit a reason for the withdrawal, its timing indicates that he likely withdrew because he sharply disagreed with Barr’s and the department’s decision to dismiss the case.
In a similar instance in February, all four prosecutors who were tasked with handling the department’s case against Roger Stone, another Trump loyalist who was charged in the Russia probe,withdrew from the case after being overruled by Justice Department leadership regarding Stone’s sentencing.
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