WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the dismissal of the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in a 2-1 ruling that the Justice Department’s decision to abandon the case against Flynn settles the matter.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had declined to immediately dismiss the case, seeking instead to evaluate on his own the department’s request. He appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s position and to consider whether Flynn could be held in criminal contempt for perjury.
Flynn was the only White House official charged in Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI days after the president’s January 2017 inauguration about conversations he had had during the presidential transition period with the Russian ambassador.
In its motion, the department argued that Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador — in which they discussed sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Russia for election interference — were appropriate and not material to the underlying counterintelligence investigation. The department also noted that weeks before the interview, the FBI had prepared to close its investigation into Flynn after not finding evidence of a crime.
According to Politico the majority opinion, penned by Trump appointee Neomi Rao, said allowing the case to continue would intrude on the executive branch’s prerogatives to control criminal prosecutions. Sullivan could ask the full bench of the appeals court to reconsider the issue or a member of that court could ask for a vote to do so.