Miami Herald

Trump re­port­edly plans to par­don Flynn

- BY MAG­GIE HABER­MAN AND MICHAEL CROW­LEY Crime · U.S. News · US Politics · White-collar Crime · Discrimination · Politics · Human Rights · Society · Donald Trump · Russia · United States of America · FBI · Barack Obama · U.S. government · Washington · Moscow · United Nations · West Bank · Bill Clinton · Democratic Party (United States) · Roger Stone · Turkey · Michael T. Flynn · Robert Mueller · Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak · Rudy Giuliani

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has told aides that he plans to par­don his for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn and that it is one of a string of par­dons he plans to is­sue be­fore leav­ing of­fice, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions said Tues­day.

Flynn, a re­tired Army lieu­tenant gen­eral, twice pleaded guilty to ly­ing to the FBI about his con­ver­sa­tions with a Rus­sian diplo­mat dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion in late 2016 and early 2017. He was the only for­mer White House of­fi­cial to plead guilty in the in­quiry led by Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sia’s elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence.

In May, the Jus­tice Depart­ment sought to with­draw its charges against Flynn. That move has since been tied up in fed­eral court, chal­lenged by the judge who presided over Flynn’s case, Em­met G. Sul­li­van.

Trump’s plans were re­ported ear­lier by Ax­ios.

Flynn, 61, served just 24 days as Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser be­fore the pres­i­dent fired him in Fe­bru­ary 2017 for ly­ing about his con­tacts with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the United States at the time, Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn changed his le­gal team last year and be­gan seek­ing to with­draw his guilty plea, claim­ing he never lied to in­ves­ti­ga­tors and was the tar­get in Jan­uary 2017 of what his lawyers in court pa­pers called an “am­bush­in­ter­view” by FBI agents seek­ing to en­trap him. He has since be­come a hero fig­ure on the pro-Trump right, por­trayed as a dec­o­rated pa­triot vic­tim­ized by the po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated Rus­sia “hoax” in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Trump.

Trump, who ini­tially dis­tanced him­self from Flynn af­ter his fir­ing, has since taken up his cause, call­ing him “an in­no­cent man” tar­geted by Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials try­ing to “take down a pres­i­dent.”

“What hap­pened to Gen­eral Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be al­lowed to hap­pen to a cit­i­zen of the United States again!” Trump tweeted in April, weeks be­fore the Jus­tice Depart­ment sought to with­draw its charges. Af­ter the depart­ment acted, Trump tweeted his ap­proval, writ­ing on May 8,

“Yes­ter­day was a BIG day for Jus­tice in the USA.”

In a late Septem­ber hear­ing be­fore Sul­li­van, a lawyer for Flynn, Sid­ney Pow­ell, re­luc­tantly ad­mit­ted that she had re­cently spo­ken to Trump about the case, but said she had asked the pres­i­dent not to par­don her client.

Pow­ell has ap­peared along­side lawyers for Trump, in­clud­ing Rudy Gi­u­liani, to press an un­founded case of elec­tion fraud. But af­ter Pow­ell floated a set of par­tic­u­larly wild claims, Gi­u­liani and an­other lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Trump cam­paign, Jenna El­lis, said in an abrupt state­ment on Sun­day that Pow­ell “is not a mem­ber of the Trump le­gal team.”

Flynn has been await­ing a rul­ing from Sul­li­van on the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s mo­tion to with­draw its charges. The mo­tion raised alarms among ca­reer prose­cu­tors about po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence at the depart­ment.

Flynn has said he does not re­call his con­ver­sa­tions with Kislyak. But tran­scripts de­clas­si­fied in May show that they were ex­ten­sive, and that in three phone calls the men dis­cussed how Wash­ing­ton and Moscow might im­prove ties; how Rus­sia should re­spond to puni­tive ac­tions by

the out­go­ing Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in re­sponse to Rus­sia’s elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence; and a United Na­tions res­o­lu­tion to con­demn Is­raeli set­tle­ments on the West Bank.

Many depart­ing pres­i­dents have is­sued par­dons and com­mu­ta­tions near the end of their terms. For­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton drew par­tic­u­larly harsh crit­i­cism over his par­don of a wealthy Demo­cratic donor in his fi­nal

White House hours. But Democrats and le­gal ex­perts fear that Trump will ex­er­cise his par­don power with a brazen­ness that shat­ters past prece­dent — pos­si­bly even by par­don­ing him­self.

Trump has al­ready com­muted the sen­tence of Roger Stone, an­other as­so­ciate en­snared in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion who was con­victed on seven felony counts and was to be­gin a 40-month term in fed­eral prison.

A Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment on re­port­ing that Trump has told con­fi­dants that he plans to par­don Flynn.

While pres­i­dents have tra­di­tion­ally con­sulted the depart­ment on par­dons and com­mu­ta­tions, they do not need ap­proval from the depart­ment in or­der to is­sue them. In gen­eral, Trump has nei­ther con­sulted with the depart­ment nor par­doned peo­ple who have been vet­ted by the depart­ment’s par­dons of­fice.

Word of Trump’s in­ten­tions came on a day the pres­i­dent presided over the an­nual White House turkey par­don. Trump ig­nored shouted ques­tions from re­porters at the Rose Gar­den about whether he planned ac­tual par­dons be­fore leav­ing of­fice.

 ?? TOM BRENNER The New York Times, file 2018 ?? Michael Flynn is Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer na­tional-se­cu­rity ad­viser.
TOM BRENNER The New York Times, file 2018 Michael Flynn is Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer na­tional-se­cu­rity ad­viser.

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