Progressive critics and Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage Wednesday as President Donald Trump announced a pardon of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn—who despite pleading guilty twice to lying to the FBI about his conversations in 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, will now face no consequences for his actions.
"It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
The pardon was announced six months after Attorney General William Barr moved to drop the Department of Justice's case against Flynn, an action which led to calls for Barr's impeachment by public advocacy groups including Common Cause. Flynn's sentencing for his guilty pleas has also been delayed twice.
Barr's attempt to drop the case has been held up by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who was urged to scrutinize the legitimacy of the move. Trump issued the pardon after Flynn unsuccessfully requested that an appeals court block Sullivan's review of Barr's decision.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) noted that Trump's pardon of Flynn fit a pattern that was established when the president commuted the 40-month sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, who was convicted of seven felony counts, including lying to Congress under oath, withholding documents pertaining to the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign's alleged communications with Russia, and threatening another witness if he cooperated with the probe.
"It is important to talk about why the President pardoned Flynn," said Nadler. "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."
"This pardon is part of a pattern," Nadler continued. "We saw it before, in the Roger Stone case—where President Trump granted clemency to protect an individual who might have implicated the President in criminal misconduct. We may see it again before President Trump finally leaves office. These actions are an abuse of power and fundamentally undermine the rule of law."
One liar pardons another. What a disgrace. https://t.co/VvsVxuSg60
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 25, 2020
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The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was among the groups which condemned Trump for using his pardoning power selectively in favor of his own friends and associates—not to restore justice to the wrongly convicted.
"President Trump is on pace to have one of the lowest rates of pardons and commutations of any president in recent time," said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee. "While he has pardoned convicted felons, including a sheriff notorious for terrorizing immigrant communities, a war criminal, and two men whose release was sought by violent white extremists, he has failed to use his power to grant clemency to those who remain incarcerated for low-level, non-violent offenses. The pardon of Michael Flynn, just like the Justice Department's abrupt decision to abandon his prosecution, is another gross abuse of executive power."
Trump has pardoned only 38 people since taking office in 2017, while President Barack Obama issued more than 1,900 pardons.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich denounced the pardon, which he said offered a stark illustration of the unequal system of criminal justice in the United States.
So let me get this straight: Michael Flynn will face no consequences for lying to the F.B.I, undermining prosecutors, and betraying the country — while countless people are dying of coronavirus in prison because they were jailed on technicalities or parole violations?
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) November 25, 2020
Michael Flynn will face no consequences for lying to the FBI, undermining prosecutors, and betraying the country.
This is the same system that sentenced Crystal Mason to five years in prison for voting when she didn't realize a past felony conviction made her ineligible.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) November 25, 2020
"This pardon is undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump's rapidly diminishing legacy," said Nadler.