US President, Donald Trump, announced in a tweet Wednesday November 25 that he has granted his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a “full pardon,” cleaning off the guilty plea of Flynn who admitted to lying to the FBI.
The pardon, comes as Trump enters his last days as President, after spending four years in office and showcases his rebuke for the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Since January 2017, the Flynn case has been among the defining sagas of Trump’s presidency and Attorney General William Barr’s leadership of the Justice Department.
The Justice Department recently said Flynn should never have been investigated by the FBI and that his lies to them in January 2017 were immaterial, while Flynn recanted his admissions of guilt.
The White House, in a statement following the President’s announcement, insisted on Flynn’s innocence, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying:
“The President has pardoned General Flynn because he should never have been prosecuted.”
The pardon brings “to an end the relentless, partisan pursuit of an innocent man,” McEnany wrote.
Trump said in March that he was “strongly considering” pardoning Flynn and had told aides in recent days that he planned to pardon him before leaving office.
Flynn’s pardon is the second presidential act of clemency related to prosecutions of advisers of the President. The first was Roger Stone.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to [Flynn] and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” Trump’s tweet on Wednesday said.
In another tweet on Wednesday evening, Trump wrote ” Have a great life Flynn’
Flynn in response, tweeted a reference to a Bible verse from the Book of Jeremiah:
” They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”
Over the past two years, Flynn, a retired lieutenant general twice appeared before federal judges and admitted, under oath, that he was guilty of lying to the FBI while serving as national security adviser when they asked him about his calls in December 2016 with the then-Russian ambassador. But in recent months, Flynn claimed his innocence, saying he had been duped.
After the election in late 2016, Flynn spoke to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the phone several times, requesting that Russia “reciprocate moderately” to US sanctions for its interference in the election and to oppose the Obama administration in an upcoming United Nations vote.
He had discussed the calls with Trump transition officials, special counsel Robert Mueller found, and admitted to not documenting the discussions because they could have been perceived as Trump’s transition team getting in the way of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
“Let’s keep this at even-kill (sic) level; then when we come in, we will have a better conversation where we are going to go regarding our relationship,” Flynn told Kislyak on December 29, 2016, according to transcripts of the calls released by the Trump administration this year.
When FBI agents asked Flynn about the calls in January 2017, Flynn falsely said he had not made the requests of Russia.
Flynn’s calls with Kislyak, including Trump’s encouragement of then-FBI Director James Comey not to attack Flynn, contributed to the eventual appointment of Mueller as special counsel, one of the bad legacies of Trump’s tenure.
Flynn’s departure from the White House in 2017, days after the FBI interview, came not just because of his lies to the agents. He also lied about his contacts with Kislyak to senior administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence. Senior national security officials at the time believed the lies opened up the possibility Russia could blackmail Flynn.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump tweeted in December 2017.
“He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Several Trump allies celebrated the news of Flynn’s pardon.
Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, congratulated Flynn and called it “a well deserved day for an American Patriot.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the President “is right to pardon the respected three-star general.”
House Intelligence Chairman, a democrat, Adam Schiff, meanwhile, said in a statement that the President “abused the pardon power to reward Michael Flynn, who chose loyalty to Trump over loyalty to his country.”
“There is no doubt that a president has broad power to confer pardons, but when they are deployed to insulate himself, his family, and his associates from criminal investigation, it is a corruption of the Framer’s intent,” the California Democrat said, adding, “It’s no surprise that Trump would go out just as he came in — crooked to the end.”
He added later on CNN that Trump’s pardon of Flynn is a “body blow to our national security. It’s also a body blow to the rule of law and, I think, makes a mockery of our democracy to those watching from around the world.”