The Department of Justice said on Thursday that it is dropping the criminal case against former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
The stunning reversal came as the defense continued to bolster their case against Flynn’s former counsel and as the court received a stream of apparently exculpatory documents from an outside U.S. attorney assigned to review the case.
The Associated Press was first to report the development.
In the hours leading up to the withdrawal of the case, the government attorney assigned to the case, Brandon van Grack, formally withdrew from the case.
The charges against Flynn were the opening salvo in the barrage of prosecutions by special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated, but did not find sufficient evidence of, allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in late 2017 but withdrew his plea last year, alleging that his prosecution was a politically motivated hit job and that his former counsel had conflicts of interest. Documents received by the court prior to the withdrawal of the case say that the FBI sought to interview him in order to “get him to lie” and get him fired.
In court documents being filed Thursday, the Justice Department said it is dropping the case “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information.”
The Justice Department said it had concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview on Jan. 24, 2017 was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
The U.S. attorney reviewing the Flynn case, Jeff Jensen, recommended the move to Attorney General William Barr last week and formalized the recommendation in a document this week.
“Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case,” Jensen said in a statement. “I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed.”
Barr appointed Jensen earlier this year to look into the handling of Flynn’s case. As part of the review, Jensen turned up handwritten notes from a senior FBI official which describe a discussion about the purpose of interviewing Flynn: “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the official wrote.
Other documents produced by Jensen show that an FBI agent was about to close the case against Flynn in January 2017 before Peter Strzok, the FBI official notorious for his anti-Trump text messages, intervened to keep the case open. The investigation remained open, and agents went to visit him in the White House on Jan. 24, 2017.
Flynn’s years-long case has been full of twists and turns. At one point, he was on track to receive a sentence of probation instead of prison due to extensive cooperation with the government.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.