Publish Date: May 11, 2020
Less than a week after the Department of Justice unexpectedly moved to dismiss the criminal case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, American Oversight filed suit Monday against the department to compel the release of communications about the case.
The decision to drop the case against Flynn is a stunning assault on the rule of law that raises extremely troubling questions about the politicization of Justice Department decision-making at the agency. To get to the bottom of what happened, there needs to be a full push for oversight of the department’s actions, from Congress to the press to watchdog groups like American Oversight. Monday’s lawsuit seeks the release of multiple categories of documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act, including communications between White House officials and Attorney General William Barr or his top aides regarding the Flynn case.
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about matters including his contacts with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. Flynn ultimately withdrew his guilty plea earlier this year, and Trump said in March that he was “strongly considering” issuing a pardon, a move that would have brought up serious concerns about the president’s abuse of the pardon power to protect a political ally.
Flynn was still awaiting sentencing last Thursday when the Justice Department took the virtually unprecedented step of moving to dismiss the charges against him. The motion was signed only by Timothy Shea, the recently appointed acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and not by the career prosecutors handling the case. Before taking over his current post, Shea worked in the attorney general’s office and was a close adviser to Barr. He drew sharp criticism and charges of political interference in February after his office reversed its previous position and recommended a lenient sentence for another Trump ally, Roger Stone.
American Oversight has filed three FOIA requests with DOJ seeking the public release of records including:
- All communications of Barr or other top DOJ officials regarding the Flynn case;
- Communications between Barr or other top DOJ officials and anyone in the White House Office regarding the Flynn case;
- Communications between Barr or other top DOJ officials and Flynn’s attorneys;
- Guidance and directives given to the outside prosecutors Barr had assigned to review Flynn’s case; and
- Communications between Barr or other top DOJ officials and those outside prosecutors regarding the review.
DOJ has failed to release the records requested by American Oversight as required by law, leading to Monday’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“If Bill Barr and Donald Trump want to create one set of rules for the president’s political allies and another for the rest of us, they can’t be allowed to pretend they’re doing it in the name of justice,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “The more we learn about the Flynn dismissal, the more it looks like brazen political interference in our justice system, and the public deserves the full truth.”
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