President Trump said on Wednesday he had pardoned Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser, declaring it a “great honor” just in time for Thanksgiving.
“Congratulation to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you are now having a truly fantastic Thanksgiving! the outgoing president tweeted.
Trump is said to have considered a series of pardons before being fired from his post in January, including for the many people around him who have committed crimes. Hopeful recipients will go to great lengths to lobby for one, according to The New York Times, as imprisoned King tiger Star Joe Exotic, whose team racked up a $ 10,000 ticket to the Trump Hotel in Washington in an attempt to get the president’s attention.
Flynn, a retired army lieutenant general, had been Trump’s national security adviser for less than a month before things started to deteriorate. His tenure was loaded from the start: shortly before leaving office, President Barack Obama reportedly warned Trump, then president-elect, against hiring Flynn. Then, weeks before the inauguration, Flynn reportedly told Trump’s transition team that he was under federal investigation for working secretly as a paid lobbyist for Turkey.
But it was Flynn’s contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak – during which he discussed new sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, among others – that put Flynn in legal danger. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak as part of Special Advocate Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia in 2017.
After initially cooperating with Mueller, Flynn fired his lawyers and turned the tide. In the summer of 2019, he began trying to overturn his guilty plea, claiming he had fallen victim to “Deep State” prosecutors who wanted to install him – a martyrdom tale Trump has long amplified. This made Flynn a hero in MAGA’s revenge fantasy known as QAnon, which Flynn, like his now disgraced lawyer Sidney Powell, appeared to embrace.
And in a move that has escalated concerns that Trump is using the Justice Department for his own personal blood feuds, Attorney General William Barr decided in May to drop the charges against Flynn, arguing he was not in reality a victim of the FBI’s outrageousness. The case had made its way to Federal Court after Judge Emmet Sullivan, the same judge who told Flynn before sentencing that he had “sold” his country, challenged the DOJ’s proposal to dismiss the charges.
Trump claimed to have nothing to do with the Justice Department’s decision to drop the charges, but praised Flynn, calling him an “innocent man” and “warrior.”
He also repeatedly teased the idea of forgiving Flynn, boasting at the end of April that he had a “different kind of power” to use if Flynn was not allowed in court.
The move comes as more and more people in Trump’s orbit seem to accept the fact that he will not have a second term, even if the president himself refuses to give in.
House Judiciary Speaker Adam Schiff (D-CA) said on Wednesday that Trump had “abused the power of forgiveness to reward his friends and political allies, and protect those who lie to cover it up.”
“It’s no surprise that Trump came out just as he walked in – twisted all the way,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) suggested that Trump put a pardon on hold to get Flynn back on his promise to cooperate with the federal government.
“And it worked,” he said on Wednesday. “This forgiveness is unwarranted, unprincipled and one more stain on President Trump’s rapidly diminishing legacy.”
It’s not unusual for presidents to issue pardons at the end of their tenure, but Trump has worried some legal experts with his apparent willingness to grant pardons to his allies and those his most ardent supporters embrace.
Trump has granted pardons to former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for defying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling, and the right-wing provocateur Dinesh D’Souza, who had pleaded guilty to violations of the campaign finance law. He commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, his longtime confidant who was convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress during the Russia inquiry. Following a campaign by some of his favorite Fox News figures, Trump has granted clemency to members of the U.S. service accused or convicted of war crimes.
Flynn has done Trump an untold service at a time when his first presidential campaign needed it most. As intelligence chief of Joint Special Operations Command and then the war in Afghanistan, Flynn fought the war on terrorism like very few others. United with Trump for their mutual contempt for Islam, which Flynn called a “malignant cancer,” Flynn gave military validation to Trump’s campaign at a time when dozens of military and intelligence veterans have said that Trump was unfit to be president.
Flynn entered Trump’s orbit after their common adversary, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, dismissed Flynn from his post at the top of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. By appointing Flynn as National Security Advisor, and now forgiving him, Trump has now saved Flynn twice. of disgrace.
With additional reporting from Spencer Ackerman
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