WASHINGTON — A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday considered whether a federal judge must honor the highly unusual request by President Donald Trump’s administration to drop the criminal case against his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Ten judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit were hearing arguments in the politically charged case after a three-judge panel, in a 2-1 ruling on June 24, directed U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the Justice Department’s motion to clear Flynn.
As the hearing got underway, Sidney Powell, Flynn’s lawyer, accused Sullivan of “usurping” the job of a prosecutor and said the judge “impermissibly sallied forth to right the wrongs that he perceived.”
Democrats and other critics have accused Attorney General Bill Barr of protecting Trump’s friends and allies in this and other high-profile criminal cases, warping the rule of law. Trump on July 10 also commuted the prison sentence of his friend and adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Moscow’s election meddling. Flynn pleaded guilty two times to lying to the FBI about his conversations concerning U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow under President Barack Obama with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, before Trump took office in 2017.