U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, said the case was dismissed.
In an accompanying 43-page memorandum, Sullivan said the dismissal was due to Trump’s pardon, not the Department of Justice’s motion earlier this year requesting a dismissal based on fresh findings of how Flynn’s case was treated by the FBI.
Sullivan defended his refusal to grant the government’s motion, filed in May, arguing Flynn had admitted to lying to the FBI during an investigation into a phone call he shared with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the Trump transition in 2016.
The rationales for dismissal were “dubious to say the least,” Sullivan wrote, but said the “close question” became moot when Trump pardoned Flynn, a retired lieutenant general.
Trump on Nov. 25 pardoned Flynn, calling it a “Great Honor” in a post on Twitter.
“The President has pardoned General Flynn because he should never have been prosecuted. An independent review of General Flynn’s case by the Department of Justice—conducted by respected career professionals—supports this conclusion. In fact, the Department of Justice has firmly concluded that the charges against General Flynn should be dropped. This Full Pardon achieves that objective, finally bringing to an end the relentless, partisan pursuit of an innocent man,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
Trump defenders and Flynn lawyers attempted to paint Sullivan as a judge acting outside his purview by not adhering to the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the case against Flynn, which was part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
The department announced in May that it was moving to drop the case after a careful review.
The FBI’s Jan. 24, 2017, interview of Flynn was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis,” the department said.
The move came after U.S. attorney reviewing the matter, Jeff Jensen, recommended to Attorney General William Barr to drop the case.
Democrats were upset with the turn, and the recent pardon.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the pardon “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power,” adding, “Trump is again using the pardon power to protect those who lie to cover up his wrongdoing, just as he did when he commuted the sentence of campaign advisor Roger Stone.”
After the pardon, Flynn thanked people for praying for him.
“Never again should any family or individual be so viciously targeted, maligned, smeared, and threatened such has been the experience of my family and I. Not you and your loved ones, not me nor President Trump, our First Lady, and the Trump children,” he wrote in a statement.
Ivan Pentchoukov and Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.