Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he has pardoned Michael Flynn, the former general and national security adviser who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” the president tweeted on Wednesday. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving.”
It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2020
Flynn has not spoken publicly since President Trump tweeted the news, but not long before the announcement Flynn tweeted a Bible verse, Jeremiah 1:19, and an American flag. “And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee,” the verse reads.
Applied to Flynn’s case, the “they” here is the federal government. Flynn lied to investigators about his communications with Russia following Trump’s election in 2016. He pleaded guilty to doing so in February of 2017, and soon after Trump forced him to resign as national security adviser. Flynn pleaded guilty again, to a felony count of knowingly lying to the FBI, that December.
Trump softened toward Flynn following his departure from the White House, using him to paint the Mueller investigation as a hoax. Trump cried that Flynn was being “persecuted” and “entrapped” by the “crooked” Justice Department with which he was cooperating. The case grew more complicated as Flynn switched legal teams in 2019 when it appeared a prison sentence was coming down the pike. He then tried to rescind his guilty plea, prompting Attorney General William Barr to conduct a review of his case earlier this year. In May, the Justice Department moved to drop its case against Flynn, but the judge overseeing the case appointed a prosecutor to challenge the DOJ’s ability to do so.
“He was an innocent man,” Trump said at the time. “He is a great gentleman. He was targeted by the Obama administration and he was targeted in order to try and take down a president and what they’ve done is a disgrace and I hope a big price is going to be paid.”
If Flynn were indeed “innocent,” as Trump claimed then, it certainly seems odd that he would now feel the need to pardon him for crimes … he didn’t commit.
Democrats were not happy with the Thanksgiving Eve news dump. In a statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the pardon “undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump’s rapidly diminishing legacy.”
Nadler on Flynn:
“This pardon is undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump’s rapidly diminishing legacy.” pic.twitter.com/gfXlJNRiJr
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) November 25, 2020
“It’s important to talk about why the President pardoned Flynn,” Nadler continued. “President Trump dangled this pardon to encourage Flynn to backtrack on his pledge to cooperate with federal investigators — cooperation that might have exposed the President’s own wrongdoing. And it worked. Flynn broke his deal, recanted his plea, received the backing of the Attorney General over the objections of career prosecutors, and now has secured a pardon from the President of the United States.”
As Nadler notes, the pardon of Flynn was not unexpected. Trump has played fast and loose with his pardoning power since taking office, most notably when he commuted the sentence of longtime adviser Roger Stone, who had been convicted of several felonies.
Trump also wrote in March that he was “strongly considering” a full pardon of Flynn, citing how the Justice Department and the FBI were “destroying his life & the life of his wonderful family.”