May 15, 2020
Not so fast: Although the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Bill Barr, dropped charges against Michael Flynn on May 7, Judge Emmet Sullivan—the federal adjudicator on the case—refused to simply fall in line.
After reassessing the evidence and arguments against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Judge Sullivan appointed “a hard-charging former prosecutor and judge”on Wednesday, May 13, to oppose the DOJ’s effort to drop the case and to explore a perjury charge against Flynn, The New York Times reported.
The Times noted that the appointment of retired judge, John Gleeson, was an “extraordinary move in a case with acute political overtones.” Flynn had pleaded guilty twice to lying to investigators as part of a larger inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Flynn later began fighting the charge and sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Then last week, the Justice Department abruptly moved to drop the charge after a long campaign by President Trump and his supporters, prompting accusations that Attorney General Bill Barr had undermined the rule of law and further politicized the department.
The Justice Department declined to comment, when contacted by the Times. Judge Gleeson did not respond to a request for comment. Judge Sullivan had said on Tuesday that he would consider briefs from outsiders known as amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” who opposed the government’s request to dismiss the case against Flynn.
While judges do sometimes appoint such third parties to represent an interest they feel is not being heard in a case, Judge Sullivan’s move was highly unusual, Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Duke University, told the Times.
Judge Sullivan, he said, is essentially bringing in an outsider to represent the point of view of the original prosecutors, who believed Flynn had committed a crime before Barr intervened and essentially replaced them with a prosecutor willing to say he had not.
“This is extraordinary for the judge to appoint somebody to argue against a prosecutors’ motion to dismiss a criminal case,” Buell told the news outlet. “But it’s extraordinary for a prosecutor to move to dismiss this sort of criminal case.”
Research contact: @nytimes