Michael Flynn case: Judge appoints retired jurist John Gleeson to investigate tainted former NSA

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan has appointed former federal judge John Gleeson, who feels against dropping of the charges, to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt


                            Michael Flynn case: Judge appoints retired jurist John Gleeson to investigate tainted former NSA
Michael Flynn (Getty Images)

The justice department’s decision to drop charges against disgraced former national security adviser (NSA) Michael Flynn has met resistance from the judiciary.

On Tuesday, May 12, a federal judge clarified that he would not give an immediate ruling on the department’s move to dismiss its criminal case against Flynn and allow outside individuals and groups to come up with their opinions, Associated Press reported. The next day, May 13, the judge presiding over Flynn’s criminal case roped in a retired jurist to assess whether the former NSA should be held in criminal contempt over his guilty plea to perjury charges that the justice department has dropped, the news agency said in another report. Former president Barack Obama slammed the move saying the ‘rule of law is at risk’.

The two back-to-back judicial assertions gave enough hint that the judge is not open to easily accept the federal prosecutors’ motion to drop the charges against Flynn, who served less than a month in office as President Donald Trump’s first NSA. US District Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed former federal judge John Gleeson as an amicus curiae and asked him to evaluate whether the former should hold the 61-year-old Flynn in ‘criminal contempt for perjury’.

The department said dropping the case against Flynn was in the interest of justice and it was done after a US attorney appointed by Attorney General William Barr recommended a probe into the handling of the Flynn investigation. But Sullivan, who has the responsibility of approving the motion, made it clear on Tuesday, May 12, that he wouldn’t immediately give a ruling and allow other groups and experts to give opinions on the court documents.

Dismissing Flynn case 'reeks of improper political influence'

Gleeson, 67, was a federal judge in New York for over two decades. Before becoming a judge, he was a federal prosecutor who was in charge of several high-profile cases, including the one against late Italian-American gangster John Gotti who was also the boss of the Gambino crime family. He has been into private practice since 2016. It was only this week that Gleeson co-authored an op-ed for The Washington Post in which he slammed the Trump administration's handling of the Flynn case.

In the piece titled 'The Flynn case isn’t over until the judge says it’s over', Gleeson wrote with his two co-authors: "There has been nothing regular about the department’s effort to dismiss the Flynn case. The record reeks of improper political influence. Hours after the career prosecutor abruptly withdrew, the department moved to dismiss the indictment in a filing signed only by an interim US attorney, a former aide to Attorney General William P Barr whom Barr had installed in the position months before.

The department now says it cannot prove its case. But Flynn had already admitted his guilt to lying to the FBI and the court had accepted his plea. The purported reasons for the dismissal clash not only with the department’s previous arguments in Flynn’s case — where it assured the court of an important federal interest in punishing Flynn’s dishonesty, an interest it now dismisses as insubstantial — but also with arguments it has "routinely made for years in similar cases not involving defendants close to the president."

Vice President Mike Pence with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (Getty Images)

Flynn, who had also worked under the Obama administration as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012-14, pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about conversations with then Russian ambassador to Washington during the presidential transition period from Obama to Trump. His plea came as part of the Russia investigation which was done by special counsel Robert Mueller. Flynn had to admit in the court under oath that he lied to the FBI and violated federal law. He stepped down after it was reported that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his talks with the Russian envoy. 

While Flynn’s new team of legal aides has asserted aggressively in recent months that the man was tricked into lying, triggering angry response from the Trump administration, Sullivan’s latest order could see the case experiencing another twist. In January, Flynn filed court papers to withdraw his guilty plea. 

Dropping case against Flynn in interest of justice, says justice dept

According to the AP, justice department spokesperson Kerri Kupec declined to issue a remark on the judge's order. However, during an interview with Fox News on Tuesday evening, May 12, Kupec said the department’s stand on dismissing the case was clear. “We do not believe this case should have been brought, we are correcting that and we certainly hope that in the interest of true justice, that the judge ultimately agrees and drops the case against General Flynn,” she said.