'Brazen Abuse of Power': Reactions Follow Trump Pardoning Michael Flynn

With news that President Donald Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, legislators and commentators were torn on whether the pardon was deserved or an abuse of power.

A statement from the White House on Wednesday revealed that Trump had signed the Executive Grant of Clemency for Flynn, who had pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI amid an investigation about his correspondence with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

In a statement, the White House claimed that Flynn was innocent and alleged corruption as the reason for his prosecution. "He is an innocent man. Even the FBI agents who interviewed General Flynn did not think he was lying. Multiple investigations have produced evidence establishing that General Flynn was the victim of partisan government officials engaged in a coordinated attempt to subvert the election of 2016," read the statement from press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Trump tweeted about the pardon, wishing Flynn a happy Thanksgiving and a "great life." Flynn tweeted out his thanks, calling the pardon "historic" and referring to a statement his family issued about the pardon.

Flynn included the Bible verse 1 Chronicles 16:32–34, which reads: "Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."

The Flynn family statement thanked both the president and Americans who stood by Flynn. "We thank President Trump for recognizing our brother's sacrifice in this battle for truth, our Constitution, our Republic, and all that America stands for around the world," the statement read in part. Flynn said he would release a personal statement later on Thursday.

With news of the pardon, some people voiced their support for the president and praised the decision. Many expressed excitement for Flynn and his family, such as entrepreneur and 2016 Trump adviser Tana Goertz. The Wall Street Journal editorial board also showed support, calling the pardon "an overdue act of justice." Senator Lindsey Graham also backed Trump granting Flynn clemency, calling it a "good use of the pardon power."

Others criticized the prosecutions against Flynn in the first place. Reporter Michael Tracey called it a "farce," and Fox News' Laura Ingraham likened criticisms of Flynn to those levied against Trump.

Democratic legislators were much more critical of Trump's decision. California congressman Adam Schiff said that Trump's pardons are often abuses of power "to reward friends and protect those who covered up for him," ending his tweet by saying that Trump was "crooked to the end." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a similar statement, calling it "an act of grave corruption."

Pelosi's statement concluded by saying what actions she feels need to be taken with the next Congress. "Sadly, this pardon is further proof that Trump plans to use his final days in office to undermine the rule of law in the wake of his failed presidency. In the new Congress, it is imperative that we pass House and Senate Democrats' Protecting Our Democracy Act, which prevents any president from abusing the pardon power," she said.

Others were harsh, as well. Republican organization The Lincoln Project, which has been an outspoken critic of the president, tweeted, "Nothing great about this. Nothing honorable about this. Just the last gasp of a corrupt man on his way out."

Another common meme was to call Flynn a turkey, joking about the closeness to Thanksgiving and the presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Michael Flynn
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn leaves a courthouse on June 24, 2019, in Washington. President Donald Trump pardoned Flynn on Wednesday. Getty/Alex Wroblewski