A federal appeals court handed a major victory to Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ordering a lower court judge to dismiss the felony false-statement charge Flynn pleaded guilty to during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit split 2-1 along ideological lines as it backed Flynn’s unusual bid to strongarm U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan into accepting Attorney General William Barr’s move to pull the plug on the case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser. The majority opinion, penned by Trump appointee Neomi Rao, said allowing the case to continue would intrude on the executive branch’s prerogatives to control criminal prosecutions. Rao said even scheduling a hearing — as Sullivan had done for next month — was improper under the circumstances because there was no good reason to doubt the government’s decision to reverse course. “Each of our three coequal branches should be encouraged to self-correct when it errs. If evidence comes to light calling into question the integrity or purpose of an underlying criminal investigation, the Executive Branch must have the authority to decide that further prosecution is not in the interest of justice,” Rao wrote. “This is not the unusual case where a more searching inquiry is justified,” Rao added in her opinion, which was joined by Judge Karen Henderson, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. The ruling Tuesday may not be the last word on the issue. Any active judge on the D.C. Circuit — including dissenting Judge Robert Wilkins — could call for a vote to bring the matter before the full court en banc. The court’s active bench is currently made up of seven Democratic appointees and five Republican ones. “WIN in General Flynn’s case,” said DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec ina tweetadorned with four American Flag emojis.
Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill also trumpeted the ruling, sidestepping the prospect that it could be reviewed by the full appeals court.
“Justice. Finally justice. Justice delayed is better than no justice,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a statement. READ MORE