May 11, 2020

Michael Flynn

“The U.S. Justice Department [last] Thursday abruptly asked a judge to drop criminal charges against Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn… The Justice Department said in its filing it was no longer persuaded that the FBI’s Jan. 24, 2017 Flynn interview that underpinned the charges was conducted with a ‘legitimate investigative basis’ and did not think his statements were ‘material even if untrue.’” Reuters

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From the Left

The left opposes the decision to drop the charges.

“Let’s be clear about what the Justice Department is saying here: If you’re investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts, and learn new information about a former campaign official (and now member of the administration) who recently had Russia contacts, there’s no good reason to talk to him…

“The government repeats the conservative canard that there was no need to interview Flynn because the FBI already had a transcript of his conversation with the ambassador. But the issue was never the exact words they exchanged — it was why the conversation took place and who directed Flynn to have the discussion. Was the incoming Trump administration potentially promising to ease sanctions on Russia as a quid pro quo for Russian assistance during the election? The Russia investigation was in its infancy, and agents didn’t know what they would learn, but they had an obligation to follow that lead.”
Randall D. Eliason, Washington Post

Regarding Flynn’s initial plea, “Flynn was a sophisticated defendant, with highly regarded lawyers, who made an informed decision to admit his guilt—in two separate proceedings, as it happened… A pardon would have been outrageous but within Presidential prerogative. Instead, the Justice Department manufactured a phony pretext to pretend that Flynn’s guilty plea was illegitimate…

“The Justice Department’s action here may be unprecedented. I do not know of another instance where the department has voluntarily dropped a case in which the defendant had pleaded guilty—especially a case such as this, in which the judge had already rejected the arguments that Barr’s subordinates made in dismissing the case.”
Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker

“DOJ’s inspector general found last year that the FBI had a lawful basis to investigate connections between Trump and his associates and the Russian government. Barr disputed that assessment at the time, as did John Durham, his handpicked Russia investigation investigator, in an unusual public statement. By making this dubious case [now], the Barr Justice Department moves away from advocating on behalf of Trump’s political allies and towards attacking Trump’s political adversaries…

“Dropping the Flynn case is a major step in Barr’s quest to wipe away the Russia investigation and the stain it has left on Trump’s presidency. But its true significance may lie in what it portends for the future.”
Matt Ford, New Republic

“The Watergate scandal, with its revelations of how dangerous a renegade White House could be, led to reforms meant to ensure an independent Justice Department, one faithful to the law rather than to the Oval Office. The nation had seen firsthand how much harm a president with no respect for the rule of law could do — particularly when he used the Justice Department, under a compliant attorney general, to protect allies, punish adversaries and cover up wrongdoing…

“Having absorbed the lessons of Watergate, mainstream Republicans once balked at the politicization of the Justice Department — even by Republican presidents. When President George W. Bush’s attorney general Alberto Gonzales fired eight United States attorneys because they were not aggressive enough in prosecuting Democrats, the outrage was bipartisan, and he was forced to resign. But today’s Republicans, who could be most effective in defending the integrity of American justice, appear either too afraid of Mr. Trump or too eager for short-term partisan advantage to confront the danger to the country.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Some note that “It’s not only the Department of Justice’s decision to dismiss the charges against Flynn. The federal judge in charge of the case must agree, too. Ordinarily, that’s a pretty easy decision for a judge. But where a defendant has already admitted to the crime; the executive branch is dismissing charges against a former administration official; and the president encouraged the former FBI director to make the same case go away, that may be the one circumstance where the judge should take a close look at the question. And maybe, just maybe, it would be appropriate for the court to refuse the government’s dismissal.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, states that “Flynn’s case is not unlike many other cases in which the FBI interviewed someone without their attorney present with the expectation that the subject would lie. Any change to how the FBI handles cases like Flynn’s should be done across the board, for all defendants. [Otherwise] What we’re left with is a criminal justice system that has different rules for Donald Trump’s friends than it has for everyone else. That’s corruption, plain and simple.”
Sean Illing, Vox

From the Right

The right applauds the decision to drop the charges.

The right applauds the decision to drop the charges.

“We now know that, in late 2016, investigators completed their multiagency probe of Flynn, code-named Crossfire Razor, and found no evidence of any crime. They informed FBI and Justice Department leadership that they wanted to close the investigation for failure to find any ‘derogatory information’… Indeed, we now know there never was any credible evidence of collusion with the Russians by Trump campaign officials. New transcripts show dozens of officials confirming they never saw evidence of collusion…

“The [Logan Act] is widely viewed as a grossly unconstitutional law that, if ever actually used, would gut the First Amendment. Yet the record now shows the Logan Act became the last refuge for Justice Department officials in desperately trying to find a crime, any crime, to use against Flynn… the use of the Logan Act against the incoming national security adviser would have been not only patently unconstitutional but positively ludicrous. There was nothing illegal in Flynn responding to Russian diplomats upset about sanctions recently imposed against Russia, just days before the start of the Trump administration.”
Jonathan Turley, The Hill

“As to why Flynn copped a plea: Flynn and his lawyers have never been provided with a transcript of his call with the Russian ambassador. It was not until late last year that Flynn was provided with much of the material that led the Justice Department to drop the prosecution… At the time, Flynn did not know about all the shortcuts, missteps and irregularities in the FBI’s investigation into him. What’s more, the FBI agents who interviewed him at the time did not even think he was lying…

“What happened to Michael Flynn happens a lot in America’s criminal justice system, it’s true. It’s fair to ask why the Justice Department has decided to intervene in this case at this time. But it’s also fair to ask why, just before a new president took office and against its own investigators’ recommendation, the FBI’s leadership kept the case open without proper predication. Equality under the law is a bedrock American principle. So is the peaceful transfer of power.”
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

“The documents filed on Thursday in federal court vindicate the general’s reversal… The documents show that Mr. Comey told his deputies not to inform the White House general counsel of the visit and not to tell the White House about his conversation with the ambassador. They also show that Mr. Comey worked around senior Justice officials, including Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who thought the White House should be informed. As he did with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Hillary Clinton’s emails, Mr. Comey acted as if he was a law unto himself.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Moreover, “FBI procedure is that one agent asks questions while another takes notes. Here, lead agent [Peter] Strzok was the questioner and [Joe] Pientka was responsible for memorializing the interview [with Flynn]. After completing an interview, those notes are required to be organized and written up on an FD-302 form, which then becomes an official document…

“In one text, dated February 10, Strzok tells Lisa] Page he is heavily editing Pientka’s 302 form to the point he’s ‘trying not to completely re-write’ it. Other messages reveal that Page, who did not attend the interview, reviewed the 302 form and made editing suggestions… FBI supervisors like Strzok, however, are not supposed to rewrite other agents’ 302 forms. Nor are 302 forms supposed to be edited by FBI personnel who were not present at the interview… James Gagliano, retired 25-year veteran of the FBI and current CNN analyst, told RealClearInvestigations. ‘This is not how we do business as an FBI supervisor. I never, ever materially altered a 302.’”
Mark Hemingway, RealClearInvestigations

“If your argument in the Flynn case is simply ‘he should be prosecuted if the law allows it,’ you’re not dealing seriously with the world as it is. That is especially so given the Justice Department’s refusal to prosecute former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was found by the DOJ inspector general to have lied to investigators; or President Obama’s director of national intelligence James Clapper, who lied under oath to the Senate about warrantless surveillance; or Obama’s CIA director John Brennan, who lied under oath about CIA drone strikes and spying on Congress; or, for that matter, Democratic National Committee chair Thomas Perez, who was reprimanded by Congress for multiple lies and concealment while serving as assistant attorney general for civil rights…

The Flynn prosecution should prompt a rethinking of some of our rules to ensure that others — be they Democrats or ordinary people far less prominent than General Flynn — are not similarly targeted.”
Dan McLaughlin, National Review

On the bright side...

Creepy robot dogs, Darth Vader, and ‘ScareCoronas’ are all reminding folks about social distancing.

New York Post, NBC, CityBeat

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