President Donald Trump’s pardon of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, includes an extremely broad reprieve from any possible crimes he might have committed connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The formal language of the pardon emerged in a Justice Department court filing on Monday seeking dismissal of the lingering criminal case against Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Flynn has since renounced his plea and accused prosecutors and investigators of framing him, charges echoed by Trump as he battled the Mueller probe.
The case has been pending before U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan for nearly three years. Sullivan has been considering the Justice Department’s effort to dismiss the case since the spring, appointing an outside adviser who urged him to reject the dismissal as an obvious political effort to protect an ally of the president.
Trump’s pardon absolves Flynn of “any and all possible offenses” arising from Mueller’s investigation, as well as any related grand jury proceedings. The clemency grant uses sweeping language, immunizing Flynn from charges based on “facts and circumstances, known to, identified by, or in any manner related to the investigation of the Special Counsel.”
The pardon appears to rule out a variety of other potential charges that Flynn critics had suggested he might be open to even if he wound up getting off the hook on the false statement charge he pleaded guilty to in December 2017. The retired Army general and former Defense Intelligence Agency chief was still awaiting sentencing on that charge when Trump issued the grant of clemency last week.
Some legal experts said Flynn could be prosecuted for factual contradictions between what he told judges in 2017 and 2018 and what he later contended in a declaration submitted to the court as part of his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea. In its filing, the Justice Department emphasized that it viewed Trump’s pardon as including any potential “criminal contempt” that Sullivan might have been contemplating based on Flynn’s reversal.
“Accordingly, the President’s pardon, which General Flynn has accepted, moots this case,” prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine wrote.
There were also questions about whether he might face prosecution for contradictions with statements he made during grand jury appearances, as well his criminal liability
on several potential charges related to his work for Turkish interests in 2016 while serving as a top campaign adviser to Trump.
Flynn’s lobbying firm registered for the work on behalf of a firm based in the Netherlands, but prosecutors contend that the Turkish governor was the real client or at least enjoyed some control over the project, which paid $600,000 to Flynn’s consulting practice at the height of the presidential race.
A statement Flynn agreed to in connection with his guilty plea suggested he was aware that some facts in submissions to the Justice Department about the work were not accurate. But Flynn later contended that he’d simply failed to look at the filings as closely as he should have and that any inaccuracies were the responsibility of his attorneys.
Some legal precedent suggests pardons may be valid only if they are agreed to by their recipients, but the Justice Department’s filing also weighs in on this point, saying: “General Flynn has accepted the President’s pardon.”