The judge overseeing Michael Flynn’s prosecution called the Justice Department’s (DOJ) attempt to drop its case against President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor “unprecedented” and asked a federal appeals court not to short-circuit his inquiry into the government’s actions.
US District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington said in a court-mandated brief that the unusual developments give him a plausible reason to question the “bona fides” of the government’s motion.
Sullivan said the surprise
May 7 dismissal request cited “minimal legal authority” and didn’t come from the line prosecutors who worked on the three-year-old case, in which Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the early days of the Russia probe.
“It is unprecedented for an Acting US Attorney to contradict the solemn representations that career prosecutors made time and again, and undermine the district court’s legal and factual findings, in moving on his own to dismiss the charge
years after two different federal judges accepted the defendant’s plea,” Sullivan said in his brief. The lead prosecutor in the case stepped down just before the request was filed.
The Justice Department pushed back in its own 42-page filing saying the judge had no power to inquire further and asking that the case be dismissed at once.
“The Constitution vests in the executive branch the power to decide when — and when not — to prosecute potential crimes,” US Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in the filing.
Republican Party leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, also urged the appeals court to step in and order Sullivan to dismiss the case, saying allowing the judge to proceed with the hearing would be unconstitutional, in violation of the separation of powers.
The US Court of Appeals
in Washington last month
ordered Sullivan to respond to Flynn’s claim that the judge was exceeding his authority by not immediately dismissing the case.