Lawyers for President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday asked a United States appeals court to force a judge to dismiss the criminal charges against him as requested by the Justice Department.
In an emergency petition, Flynn’s lawyers asked that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit order District Judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the department’s request to dismiss the case. Sullivan on May 13 signalled reluctance to drop the charges, appointing a retired judge to provide advice on whether Flynn should actually face an additional criminal contempt charge for perjury.
Flynn, who also served as a Trump campaign adviser in 2016, pleaded guilty in 2017 to charges of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, DC, but later sought to withdraw his plea and accused the FBI of tricking him. The Justice Department’s decision to ask the judge to drop the charges followed public pressure from Trump and the Republican president’s political allies.
Flynn’s petition also argues that, if there are further proceedings, the case should be assigned to another judge because Sullivan has shown bias against the defendant.
“An innocent man has been the target of a vendetta by politically motivated officials at the highest level of the FBI,” Flynn’s lawyers wrote in the new filing.
“The egregious Government misconduct, and the three-year abuse of General Flynn and his family, cry out for ending this ordeal immediately and permanently. The district judge’s orders reveal his plan to continue the case indefinitely, rubbing salt in General Flynn’s open wound from the Government’s misconduct and threatening him with criminal contempt.”
Sullivan at a 2018 hearing expressed “disgust” and “disdain” towards Flynn’s criminal offence, saying: “Arguably, you sold your country out.”
The department’s May 7 reversal in a case in which Flynn previously pleaded guilty drew accusations from Democrats and retired career prosecutors that Attorney General William Barr was politicising the US criminal justice system to benefit Trump’s friends and associates in criminal cases.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a staunch ally of Trump on Capitol Hill, stepped into the debate about the case on Tuesday, saying Sullivan’s decision was the latest example of Trump aides and advisers being treated unfairly in the US legal system.
“As if this debacle needed even more shocking behaviour, I understand a federal judge may try to continue prosecuting one of these cases, even though the prosecution itself wants to drop it,” McConnell said in a floor speech. “The judge has taken it upon himself to go browsing for other hostile parties. Obviously, that subverts our constitutional order in which the executive alone decides whether to prosecute cases.”