US President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!,” Trump said on Twitter.
It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2020
Flynn had pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI about his 2016 contacts with former Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. Flynn and Kislyak had discussed moderating Moscow’s reaction to sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama while Obama was still president and Trump was president-elect.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in 2017 to look into the allegations Russia meddled in the US elections one of his first moves was to indict Flynn, who then cooperated with the Mueller investigation extensively through 2019, as part of a plea deal to reduce an expected prison sentence.
In January of this year, Flynn sought to withdraw the guilty plea weeks before he was to face sentencing.
Attorney General William Barr in May filed a motion to drop the charges against Flynn altogether, a move refused by US District Justice Emmet Sullivan – who appointed a former judge to argue against dismissal.
The case had been pending.
Flynn tweeted a passage from the Bible as the news became public.
“They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord,” it reads.
Jeremiah 1:19 🇺🇸
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) November 25, 2020
Democratic US Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said in a tweet that Trump “has repeatedly abused the pardon power to reward friends and protect those who covered up for him”.
Donald Trump has repeatedly abused the pardon power to reward friends and protect those who covered up for him. This time he pardons Michael Flynn, who lied to hide his dealings with the Russians. It’s no surprise that Trump would go out as he came in — Crooked to the end.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 25, 2020
Flynn is the second Trump associate convicted in the Russia probe to be granted clemency by the president. Trump commuted the sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone just days before he was to report to prison.
Trump first met Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former intelligence official, in the summer of 2015. Flynn had recently been let go as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Barack Obama, after a two-year tenure that was described as “chaotic” and “disruptive”, according to the Washington Post.
In 2016, Flynn officially became an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign and was so well-regarded by Trump, he was considered as Trump’s running mate before Trump chose Mike Pence.
While endearing himself to Trump with his advice and, later, his fiery political rhetoric as a warm-up act at Trump campaign events, his deep-dive into partisan politics “rattled even some of his most long-standing colleagues”, reported the Washington Post. Flynn was particularly known for encouraging Trump crowds to chant “lock her up” in reference to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Two days after Trump won the 2016 election, he met with Obama in the Oval Office, where it was later revealed that Obama “forcefully told Trump to steer clear of Flynn,” Politico reported. Trump valued Flynn’s loyalty over Obama’s warnings and named him his national security adviser anyway.
It was during that presidential transition period when Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak took place, about which he later made false statements to the FBI, eventually leading to his December 2017 guilty plea.
Trump’s pardon is likely the first of many during his final days in the White House. Recent departing presidents each announced a flurry of pardons, some of which have been extremely controversial. The difference this year is that Trump is getting a head start on the controversial pardon process: most presidents in recent decades tended to save their most controversial pardons for their last day in office.