Michael Flynn's Case Has to Be Dismissed, Appeals Court Rules

A federal appeals court has ordered a lower court judge to immediately dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel denied a request from U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to examine whether the Justice Department's motion to drop the charges was part of a corrupt effort from Trump allies.

In a 2-1 vote, the panel ruled that Judge Sullivan intruded on the Justice Department's "charging authority" by seeking further investigation into the matter after the agency moved to dismiss Flynn's case.

Newsweek reached out to Flynn's attorney for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Wednesday's ruling is the latest development in Flynn's years-long legal saga. He pleaded guilty on two occasions for lying about his communication with Russian officials. His prosecution was a result of former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In May, the Justice Department abruptly moved to drop the case based on a review of the case ordered by Attorney General William Barr. The internal review found that Flynn's false statements weren't "material" to the Russia probe and therefore weren't a crime.

The move immediately launched a contentious debate in the intelligence community. Former federal prosecutors slammed the decision, arguing it was inappropriate for Barr to step into the case.

Trump and his allies, however, saw it as a fix to an improper prosecution of Flynn. Their criticism only increased when it was revealed that dozens of former Barack Obama officials had been involved in the "unmasking" of Flynn's name from intelligence reports. Trump has called this the "greatest political crime in the history of our country," even though "unmasking" is legal and happens thousands of times per year.

During a short meeting Wednesday in the Oval Office, the president told reporters that he was "very happy" about the Flynn news and that "what happened to General Flynn should never happen again."

But Sullivan did not immediately act on the Justice Department's request. Instead, he asked for a review of the decision and invited outside parties to submit briefs to the court on the matter. As a result of Sullivan's inquiry, Flynn's attorneys moved to remove him from the case and have the charges dropped immediately.

"This is not the unusual case where a more searching inquiry is justified," wrote Judge Neomi Rao in Wednesday's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Rao was joined in the decision by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson.

If their ruling goes unchallenged, Flynn's case is expected to be dropped.

Amid the renewed legal drama surrounding Flynn, the FBI announced that it would be investigating whether there was any misconduct in the probe of the former national security adviser.

"Although the FBI does not have the prosecutorial authority to bring a criminal case, the Inspection Division can and will evaluate whether any current on board employees engaged in actions that might warrant disciplinary measures," the bureau said.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Michael Flynn
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves federal court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2019. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty