WASHINGTON — During an appearance in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon President Trump excoriated the administration of President Barack Obama as “human scum” who attempted to undermine him by “targeting” former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump made his comments after a reporter asked about the Justice Department’s announcement earlier today that it is dropping its criminal case against Flynn. The president also railed against the media and argued “the Pulitzer Prizes should all be returned.”
“He was an innocent man. 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,” Trump said of Flynn, who was facing prison time after pleading guilty more than two years ago on charges related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Trump went on to allude to the charges against members of his former campaign team and other allies that emerged from Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He called the situation a “disgrace” and suggested it was a partisan effort.
“It’s treason,” Trump said. “So I’m very happy for General Flynn.”
The initial investigations began in 2016 while Obama was still in office. Mueller ultimately concluded the Kremlin mounted an extended effort to boost Trump’s campaign and identified multiple instances where Trump could have been seen as obstructing the investigation and documented multiple contacts between Trump’s team and associates of the Russian government. However, Mueller did not uncover evidence that Trump’s campaign worked with the Kremlin.
In the Oval Office, Trump suggested officials involved in investigating his administration and campaign wanted to pressure his allies to lie.
“It’s a disgrace. The Obama administration Justice Department was a disgrace and they got caught. They got caught, very dishonest people but much more. ... It’s treason. It’s treason,” Trump said. “So I’m very happy for General Flynn.”
Trump made his comments when he took questions from reporters while meeting with Texas Gov. Greg Abboott about the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson for Obama did not respond to a request for comment.
Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, had the shortest tenure as White House national security adviser in history. He resigned in February 2017, less than a month after Trump took office, when information surfaced indicating that he had lied to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI and made a deal to cooperate with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
In December 2018, as federal prosecutors prepared to sentence Flynn, Mueller filed a memo that indicated the former national security adviser had provided “substantial assistance” to the Russia probe and a separate criminal investigation. Mueller recommended Flynn receive a sentence that potentially didn’t include any jail time.
However, in more than a year since then, Flynn has not been sentenced amid legal wrangling that included him firing his initial attorneys and hiring Sidney Powell, a veteran attorney and conservative activist. In January of this year, Powell filed motions to have Flynn’s case dismissed due to alleged government misconduct.
Federal prosecutors were fighting back against those motions. That same month Attorney General William Barr appointed Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, to review Flynn’s case. Jensen subsequently shared documents with Powell including notes and emails from FBI officials. Those documents included notes suggesting the FBI conducted the interview with Flynn to “get him to lie.”
Powell, Flynn’s attorney, argued the documents showed “appalling” behavior by the FBI agents and an “abuse of authority.” She did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea filed a motion to dismiss the case against Flynn in D.C. District Court on Thursday. The motion cited the recently revealed documents and argued they show the FBI’s 2017 interview of Flynn “was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn.”
“The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue. Moreover, we [do] not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt,” She wrote.
The D.C. District Court still must formally approve the government’s request to dismiss the case.
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Tom Brenner/AP, AP
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