Trump's Closest Allies Are Publicly Pressuring Him to Pardon Michael Flynn

President Donald Trump has so far been coy about whether he'll save Michael Flynn from doing time behind bars.

But the public pressure campaign that's erupted from Republican and conservative figures in Trump's orbit—as well as his own remarks—from the release of new documents has fueled speculation he will grant his former national security adviser a pardon.

"The pressure from the right-wing friends is going to be massive," a senior Republican congressional aide told Newsweek, whose name is being withheld because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. "[Trump] might have to appease the base."

FBI officials' handwritten notes from the Mueller investigation on how to proceed with the probe into Flynn and his contacts with Russians that were unsealed by a federal judge Wednesday revealed an internal debate over how to handle the case that has Trump and his allies crying foul.

Republicans say the evidence proves the probe into Russian election interference was conducted with malice against Trump associates, pointing to one of the notes that reads: "What is our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?"

Flynn pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI in December 2017 about a conversation he had during the campaign with the then-Russian ambassador. He's yet to be sentenced, pending a review of the case ordered by Attorney General William Barr. Attorneys for the Justice Department recommended in January of this year that Flynn spend up to six months in jail.

From Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits to right-leaning scholars and Fox News hosts, Trump has received a unified message: Flynn was wronged.

Will Trump pardon Michael Flynn
Then-Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump and retired Lieutenant General Mike Flynn at a rally inside an aircraft hangar, Grand Junction, Colorado, October 18, 2016. Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty

"I do not believe that Michael Flynn should serve one day in jail," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Newsweek in an interview, adding Flynn should be "exonerated, whether that be through the judicial process or the pardon power." He declined to say whether he's spoken with the president about the matter.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who served as the Judiciary Committee chairman when the Russia probe was launched, has demanded Barr to "intervene," "#FREE FLYNN" and to punish the FBI and prosecutors while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the current Judiciary chairman, said Flynn "got railroaded." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News the FBI documents were "extremely troubling" and that it "could well warrant additional charges against" the bureau. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called the FBI notes "egregious and unacceptable behavior" on Twitter, adding "I believe ⁦@realDonaldTrump should pardon Gen. Flynn."

Fox News Host Sean Hannity said on his Wednesday night program that "we're very close now" to reaching justice but did not provide details. Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business wrote on Twitter earlier this week that sources told her Flynn "will be completely exonerated."

Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted Wednesday that, "Not only should general Flynn's charges be dropped immediately but the treasonous actors who set him up should be in jail!!!"

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University constitutional law professor who testified in the House's impeachment inquiry against the articles, wrote on Twitter that "for those who have long seen a concerted effort to target the Trump Administration, the record fragment will read like a deep sea scroll of a deep state conspiracy." It caught the eye of Trump, who retweeted Turley. In a subsequent post, Turley called the FBI's tactics "one of the most thuggish records I have seen. Most concerning is that they were trying to create a crime, not investigating a crime."

This is not the first time Trump has teased a pardon for his embattled former official. In March, he tweeted he was "strongly considering" a pardon. But for a president whose rhetoric and policy stances throughout his tenure have frequently mirrored those close to him and the content he views on Fox News, the public push from those who have his ear to pardon Flynn is overwhelming.

Will Trump pardon Michael Flynn
President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse on June 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty

A barrage of posts and retweets have emanated from Trump's Twitter account in the last 24 hours since the documents were revealed.

"They tormented him. They destroyed him. But he's going to come back bigger and better," Trump told reporters at the White House Thursday. "I don't have to stay out of it at all, but I like to stay out of it."

Republican strategist Susan Del Percio told Newsweek it appeared as though Trump is "chomping at the bit to pardon Flynn."

"The president wants to create another false narrative to distract the American people. It will not work," she argued in a text message. "People are now, and will be for years, financially affected by Covid-19. His smoke and mirrors tricks will fall flat."

But with the new evidence came additional revelations, such as that the FBI's concern the Trump White House may feel the agency was "playing games" if they tried to shield their reasoning for questioning Flynn. "If we're seen as playing games, WH will be furious," the notes said. "Protect our institution by not playing games."

Asked Thursday whether he would consider bringing Flynn back into the administration, Trump responded in the affirmative. "I think he's a fine man. I think it's terrible what they did to him," the president told reporters at the White House. "I would certainly consider it."

Gaetz, for that matter, also declined to offer his advice on if Flynn should have a job awaiting him. "I work in the Legislative Branch," the Trump confidant said. "I don't do HR in the Executive Branch."

This story was updated to include additional remarks by Susan Del Percio, President Trump and Sen. Paul. It was further updated to correct a typo.