In an unprecedented ruling on Wednesday morning, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the criminal case against General Michael Flynn.
In a 2-1 decision, the court granted General Flynn’s petition and directed the district court to dismiss the case.
Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed by President Trump to the bench last year, authored the majority opinion and was joined by Judge Karen Henderson, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. Judge Robert Wilkins, appointed by President Obama, dissented from the ruling.
“This case is about whether, after the government has explained why a prosecution is no longer in the public interest, the district judge may prolong the prosecution by appointing an amicus, encouraging public participation, and probing the government’s motives,” Judge Rao wrote.
“On that, both the Constitution and cases are clear: he may not.”
Dissenting from the ruling, Judge Wilkins argued that the ruling was unprecedented, and therefore wrong.
“It is a great irony that, in finding the District Court to have exceeded its jurisdiction, this Court so grievously oversteps its own,” he wrote. “This appears to be the first time that we have issued a writ of mandamus to compel a district court to rule in a particular manner on a motion.”
General Flynn served as President Trump’s first National Security Advisor for just 22 days before being forced to resign after allegedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence regarding conversations with Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.
Following an interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), ordered by former Director James Comey, General Flynn was charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller with a felony count of making one false statement to the FBI. Flynn initially pled guilty to the crime, though later sought to reverse his guilty plea following the release of exculpatory evidence by Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen.
The exculpatory information includes evidence that the FBI discussed interviewing General Flynn to “get him to lie.” The information comes from handwritten notes by the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap, following a meeting with FBI Director James Comey. “What is our goal? Truth / Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Priestap wrote. “If we’re seen as playing games, White House will be furious,” he also noted
After U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jenson disclosed the notes to Flynn’s defense attorney Sydney Powell, the Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to dismiss the case against Flynn earlier this year.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, however, refused to dismiss the case, even though there was no longer any case to prosecute.
Instead, Judge Sullivan appointed retired judge John Gleeson to brief the court and look into whether he should drop the case or not. Prior to the appointment, Gleeson wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post claiming that DOJ’s move to drop the case “reeked of… political interference.”
That prompted Flynn’s attorney, Sydney Powell, to file the petition for a writ of mandamus at the court of appeals, which has now been granted.
A writ of mandamus is a rarely used judicial tool which allows a court to compel a government official to properly fulfill their duties or correct and abuse of discretion.
It was reported back in 2019 that General Flynn had accrued more than $4.6 million in unpaid legal bills as a result costs solely related to the Trump-Russia Probe. Flynn sold his house back in 2018 for $895,000 to help pay his legal bills. A defense fund has been set up to help him pay his debts.
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