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World

Trump pardons Michael Flynn, who lied to FBI over Russia

  • Democrats expressed outrage at Flynn's pardon, which came as the judge in charge of his case refused Justice Department efforts to drop it.
26 Nov 2020

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he had pardoned Michael Flynn, the former security advisor whose lies about his Russian contacts spurred the troubling investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Moscow.

The pardon, which was expected, came in the final weeks of Trump's presidency, two years of which was spent fighting the allegations that he had overseen and sought to cover up a dangerous scheme of cooperation with Russia.

Flynn had pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI in the early days of that investigation, and was forced to resign as Trump's national security advisor in February 2017, less than four weeks into the administration.

But after pleading guilty, twice, to a Washington federal court, the former Pentagon intelligence chief did an about-face, seeking to withdraw his plea just prior to sentencing.

"It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted, wishing the retired army lieutenant general a "truly fantastic Thanksgiving!" holiday.

Flynn was initially targeted in an FBI counterintelligence investigation after he held secret phone calls with the Russian ambassador to the United States in December 2016, after Trump's election victory but before he took office.

Democrats outraged

In one key phone call Flynn sought to diminish the impact of sanctions and expulsions announced by then-president Barack Obama against Moscow for its interference in the 2016 election.

Coupled with Flynn having taken significant sums of money over the previous two years for appearances with Russian companies -- including one in which he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow gala -- US investigators were concerned that Trump's top national security aide may be vulnerable to compromise.

Trump's efforts to defend and protect Flynn in the early months of 2017 led to the naming of an independent counsel, Robert Mueller, whose investigation into both collusion and obstruction of justice clouded the first half of Trump's tenure in office.

But Trump always defended Flynn, calling the case against him a politicized "witch hunt".

Democrats expressed outrage at Flynn's pardon, which came as the judge in charge of his case refused Justice Department efforts to drop it.

"Trump has once again abused the pardon power to reward Michael Flynn, who chose loyalty to Trump over loyalty to his country," said Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee which also investigated Russian collusion.

"Flynn lied to the FBI about his communications with the Russians -- efforts which undermined US foreign policy after sanctions were imposed on Russia for interfering in our elections," he said.

"A pardon by Trump does not erase that truth, no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise."