The Week (US)
Flynn: Why Barr wants to drop all charges
Prosecutors and criminal lawyers “are hard to really shock,” said Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer in The New York Times. But when Attorney General William Barr last week moved to drop all charges against Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser, he left the law enforcement community in a state of outrage and “utter demoralization.” In a legal motion so tortured no career prosecutors would sign their names to it, Barr informed the judge overseeing Flynn’s case that even though Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, his covert contacts with Russia in 2016 were not “material” to an FBI counterintelligence investigation of the Trump team’s covert contacts with Russia. That claim is “absurd on its face,” said Randall Eliason in The Washington Post. The FBI was probing whether the Trump administration was promising to ease sanctions “as a quid pro quo for Russian assistance during the election”—a question that remains open. Barr’s blatantly partisan intervention in this case has prompted 2,000 former Justice Department officials to sign a letter calling for his resignation, and Judge Emmet Sullivan to take the unusual step of soliciting briefs from outside parties before he rules on Barr’s motion to let Flynn walk.
Actually, “this was the right call” by Barr, said James Gagliano in WashingtonExaminer.com. Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017, at the height of the “Russiagate” hysteria, after special counsel Robert Mueller threatened not only him but also his son with a slew of arcane foreign-lobbying charges. Since then there has been “disclosure after damning disclosure” about the sordid origins of the Russia probe, including handwritten notes by FBI agents scheming to “get [Flynn] to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.” Yes, Flynn lied, said Dan McLaughlin in NationalReview.com, but
“everyone knows such cases are often not pursued” when the defendant isn’t charged with any underlying crime. Flynn’s prosecution was “a perfect storm of overreach,” and Barr made “the right judgment.”
The FBI did make “serious mistakes” at the outset of the Russia probe, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post. But it was justified in probing why Flynn assured the Kremlin that Trump would “review” the sanctions the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia for election meddling in Trump’s behalf. And why did he try to cover that up? Flynn also “lied repeatedly” about having taken $500,000 from the Turkish government to further its interests in Washington, said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. These lies made Flynn vulnerable to blackmail. This rogue actor “had no business getting anywhere near the sensitive job of national security adviser.”
Flynn’s secrets are Trump’s secrets, said David Frum in TheAtlantic .com. He and Trump cronies Roger Stone and Paul Manafort likely know the full story of the Trump campaign’s many contacts with WikiLeaks, Russian hackers, and Russia. Barr has intervened to shield all three men from the full weight of justice, with the clear goal of keeping “Trump’s secrets buried as deep as he can, for as long as he can.” Barr won’t stop there, said former FBI agent Frank Figliuzzi in NBCNews.com. He already is running a criminal investigation into the intelligence officials who launched the Russia probe, and Trump’s “Obamagate” tweets this week signal a switch from defense to offense. President Obama and then–Vice President Joe Biden, Trump allies say, attended a meeting where Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador was discussed. To see what’s coming next, “we don’t need a crystal ball.”