Court of Appeals Panel Orders End Michael Flynn Case

Trump fired Flynn in early 2017 for lying to Vice President Pence and other colleagues about what he and the Russian ambassador discussed in December 2016. Flynn also struck a deal with prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller. III, to cooperate and plead guilty to a charge of making a false statement when FBI agents questioned him about the talks. The settlement would resolve his responsibility for that crime, as well as failing to register as a paid foreign agent of Turkey in 2016 and then signing forms in 2017 that lie about the nature of that work.

But after Flynn pleaded guilty twice, last year he switched to a new defense attorney, Ms. Powell, who began charging the FBI and prosecutors with misconduct. After Judge Sullivan dismissed her allegations as unfounded late last year, Mr. Flynn tried to withdraw her guilty plea. Mr. Barr then assigned an outside prosecutor to review Mr. Flynn’s case file, releasing internal documents showing that the FBI was aggressive in decisions related to questioning him.

Powell used those documents to renew his allegations of misconduct, even when the President indicated that he was considering forgiving Mr. Flynn. But in May, Mr. Barr intervened again, ordering a prosecutor to simply seek to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning that the Justice Department could not re-file it under any future administration, on the theory that the lies of the Mr. Flynn to the FBI were not “material” for any legitimate investigation.

Mr. Barr’s move was widely viewed as extraordinary and a break with the Justice Department’s focus on cases not involving a presidential favorite, fueling allegations of politicization. In particular, legal experts widely questioned his idea that the false statements were not “material” as they influenced the broader counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump campaign officials had coordinated with Russia in their election interference of 2016.

The stranger whom Judge Sullivan had appointed to criticize the Justice Department motion, John Gleeson, a former federal judge, had argued that his arguments for dropping the case were unfounded and a “pretext” for illegitimate political intervention on behalf of a presidential favorite, and urged Judge Sullivan to sentence Mr. Flynn.

The Justice Department and Ms. Powell have rejected that criticism, arguing that the dismissal of the case was justified by the facts and that Judge Sullivan had no authority to challenge the decision of the executive branch not to proceed with a prosecution. Gleeson was due to file a response to those rebuttals on Wednesday.

The ruling could effectively end the case, if Judge Sullivan accepts. But even if, instead, you ask the entire appeals court to set aside the order and hear the matter again, or the entire court decides to intervene on its own, the ruling seems minimal to disrupt your plan to hold a hearing on the 16th. July on whether to dismiss the charge.

Katie Benner contributed reporting.