Obama warns 'rule of law is at risk' in leaked audio after DOJ drops perjury case against Michael Flynn
Former President Barack Obama, who has often found himself being criticized by his successor Donald Trump and his administration, has slammed the justice department’s decision of dropping charges against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Speaking privately to people who had served in his administration (2009-17) on Friday, May 8, the Democrat said the “rule of law is at risk” in the wake of the Flynn incident, Yahoo News, which obtained audio of the call, reported exclusively.
The former president also criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “an absolute chaotic disaster”, the tape revealed.
In his conversation with members of the Obama Alumni Association, the 58-year-old said the justice department’s dropping charges against Flynn was something that ‘has been somewhat downplayed’.
“And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places,” Obama, the 44th president, warned.
Obama himself is under scrutiny after it was learned from declassified documents that he had knowledge about the details of an FBI investigation against Flynn and even spoke about it with his top officials just a fortnight before Trump succeeded him.
Flynn was the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency when Obama was the president but was removed as he was seen as a chaotic, insubordinate manager. It was reported by The New York Times that the former president had warned Trump against hiring Flynn but it was ignored.
Flynn, 61, was made Trump’s first NSA and was an important figure in the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election. He, however, lasted only 24 days in office. He resigned less than a month after Trump took over following intelligence leaks that he had secretly spoken about sanctions with then Russian ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak and then tried to cover them up.
While Flynn pleaded guilty to making untrue statements in a charge brought by then special counsel Robert Mueller, he later insisted that he did not lie. Internal FBI documents turned over by the justice department revealed later FBI officials discussed whether and when to warn the former NSA so that he could face criminal charges as they prepared for an interview with him in the Russia probe incident in January 2017.
Another bombshell revelation came earlier this week that Sally Yates, an Obama-era deputy attorney, had tried to notify the incoming Trump administration about the nature of Flynn’s communications with Moscow but the FBI came up as a hurdle. The revelations were made in a memo of an interview with Yates that was present among several documents released as the justice department dropped the criminal cases against the former NSA, reported the New York Post.
According to the Yahoo News, Obama misstated the charge to which Flynn had earlier pleaded guilty. He was charged with false statements to the probe agency and not perjury. “But the Justice Department, in a filing with a federal judge on Thursday, asked that the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller be dismissed, arguing that FBI agents did not have a justifiable reason to question the then national security adviser about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak — talks FBI agents and Mueller’s prosecutors concluded he had lied about,” it said. The head of the justice department, Attorney General William Barr, has also come under criticism over the decision.
Obama links Flynn issue with his key role in 2020 elections
Obama chose to make the Flynn case the foundation of a political role he aims to play in this year’s presidential election. He told his former aides the urgency to see Joe Biden, his own vice president, to win the election against Trump.
Obama, whose endorsement for Biden came only last month, said: “So I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do. Whenever I campaign, I’ve always said, ‘Ah, this is the most important election.’ Especially obviously when I was on the ballot, that always feels like it's the most important election. This one — I’m not on the ballot — but I am pretty darn invested. We got to make this happen.”
“This election that’s coming up on every level is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we’re seeing that internationally as well. It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolutely chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalized in our government. That’s why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden,” Obama said.
Last month, Trump said he would consider bringing back Flynn and even hinted at a presidential pardon for the tainted man. On Friday, May 8, the president lashed out at ‘dirty politicians and dirty cops’ who went after Flynn while speaking on Fox, saying they would ‘pay a big price’.