Trump Is Said to Plan Pardon of Flynn
President Trump has told aides that he plans to issue a pardon to his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and that it is one of a string of pardons he plans to issue before leaving office, a person familiar with the discussions said on Tuesday.
Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition in late 2016. Mr. Trump’s plans were reported earlier by Axios.
In May, the Justice Department sought to withdraw its charges against Mr. Flynn. That move has since been tied up in federal court, challenged by the judge who presided over Mr. Flynn’s case, Emmet G. Sullivan.
Mr. Flynn changed his legal team last year and began seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he never lied to investigators. He has since become a hero figure on the pro-Trump right, cast as a decorated patriot victimized by the politically motivated Russia “hoax” investigation of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump himself has called Mr. Flynn “an innocent man,” saying he was targeted by Obama administration officials trying to “take down a president.”
“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” Mr. Trump tweeted in April, weeks before the Justice Department sought to withdraw its charges. After the Justice Department acted, Mr. Trump tweeted his approval, writing on May 8, “Yesterday was a BIG day for Justice in the USA.”
In a late September hearing before Judge Sullivan, a lawyer for Mr. Flynn, Sidney Powell, reluctantly admitted that she had recently spoken to Mr. Trump about the case, but said she had asked the president not to pardon her client.
Mr. Flynn has been awaiting a ruling from Judge Sullivan on the Justice Department’s motion to withdraw its charges. The Justice Department move raised alarms among career prosecutors about political influence at the department.
Ms. Powell herself has drawn intense scrutiny recently, appearing alongside lawyers for Mr. Trump, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, to press an unfounded case of election fraud. After Ms. Powell floated a set of particularly wild claims, Mr. Giuliani and another lawyer representing the Trump campaign, Jenna Ellis, said in an abrupt statement on Sunday that Ms. Powell “is not a member of the Trump legal team.”
Many departing presidents have issued pardons and commutations near the end of their terms. Former President Bill Clinton triggered particularly harsh criticism over his pardon of a wealthy Democratic donor in his final White House hours. But Democrats and legal experts fear that Mr. Trump will exercise his pardon power with a brazenness that shatters past precedent.
Mr. Trump has already commuted the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr., another associate ensnared in the Russia investigation who was convicted on seven felony counts and was to begin a 40-month term in federal prison.
Word of Mr. Trump’s intentions came on a day the president presided over the annual White House turkey pardon. Mr. Trump ignored shouted questions from reporters at the Rose Garden about whether he planned actual pardons before leaving office.
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