President Donald Trump pardoned Michael Flynn on Wednesday, more than two years after the former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an explosive investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn was accused of “willfully and knowingly” making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” in a Jan. 24, 2017, interview with FBI agents on topics including his past communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. He resigned from his post in February 2017, after allegedly also misleading top administration officials about his conversations with Moscow.
Trump, limited in his pardoning power by his time left in office, said on Twitter that he pardoned Flynn with the hopes that he and his family “have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving.”
The former aide pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017. He agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, hoping to avoid jail time. But Flynn filed to withdraw that plea earlier this year — after federal prosecutors accused him and his legal counsel of growing increasingly uncooperative and recommended that he serve up to six months in prison.
In January, Flynn’s attorneys alleged that he was the victim of a “bad faith” investigation.
“Mr. Flynn refused to lie for the prosecution. In pure spite, the government retaliated,” they claimed. “Justice is not a game, and there should be no room for such gamesmanship in the Department of Justice.”
Attorney General William Barr ordered an outside prosecutor review of Flynn’s case in February, renewing questions about the Justice Department’s treatment of Trump’s allies.
Flynn was the first person who served in Trump’s administration to be charged as part of Mueller’s investigation. Discussion about the limits of the president’s legal authority ― such as Trump’s ability to pardon himself if he were charged with a crime ― has continued since he tweeted about his “complete power to pardon” months after he took office.
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