WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, the national security adviser from the early days of his administration, putting an end to criminal proceedings Trump had called unfair while drawing sharp criticism from Democrats.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “Have a great life General Flynn!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, criticized the pardon saying said Flynn should be held accountable for what she called “a serious and dangerous breach of our national security.”
“Sadly, this pardon is further proof that Trump plans to use his final days in office to undermine the rule of law in the wake of his failed presidency,” Pelosi said in a statement. “In the new Congress, it is imperative that we pass House and Senate Democrats’ Protecting Our Democracy Act, which prevents any president from abusing the pardon power.”
Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, about sanctions that the Obama administration had placed on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. The conversations took place between Trump’s 2016 election and when he took office in January 2017.
Obama administration officials warned the Trump administration that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail, and after being on the job for less than a month, Trump fired Flynn.
Flynn was charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference. He was also found to have acted as an unregistered agent of Turkey in the United States, but prosecutors for Mueller’s office agreed not to charge him with that crime in exchange for his cooperation.
His initial overall cooperation with investigators led the prosecutors to offer him a deal to plead guilty, with the prosecutors recommending to a judge that he not serve any prison time.
Flynn went on to hire new attorneys who took a more confrontational approach and sought to withdraw his guilty plea, setting off months of legal wrangling. With Flynn no longer cooperating, and acting “as if there are no consequences for his actions,” prosecutors asked a judge to sentence him to six months in prison.
In May, Attorney General William Barr said Flynn’s prosecution should be dropped, with the Justice Department arguing the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about his talks with Kislyak.
A federal judge was reviewing the case at the time Trump issued the pardon, which shields Flynn from any prosecution for lying to the FBI.
Flynn’s family issued a statement thanking Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Trump’s move a “very good use of the pardon power,” and said Flynn was the “victim of a politically motivated investigation.”
Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said Trump’s “enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president.”
"This pardon is part of a pattern,” Nadler said in a statement. “We saw it before, in the Roger Stone case—where President Trump granted clemency to protect an individual who might have implicated the President in criminal misconduct. We may see it again before President Trump finally leaves office. These actions are an abuse of power and fundamentally undermine the rule of law.”
Trump commuted the 40-month prison sentence of Stone, a longtime adviser who was convicted of seven crimes, including witness tampering and lying to federal authorities.
Mueller’s investigation also led to the convictions of other Trump associates, including his one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort and personal lawyer Michael Cohen.