Trump, who fired Flynn early on in his administration, announced the decision in a tweet, saying he was honored to grant Flynn a “Full Pardon.” He congratulated his former national security adviser and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving.
It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2020
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a lengthy statement that Trump pardoned Flynn “because he should never have been prosecuted” and that the decision “sets right an injustice against an innocent man and an American hero.”
Trump’s decision to pardon Flynn, who was a top surrogate for his 2016 campaign before becoming Trump’s first of four national security advisers, follows widespread speculation the president would do so and comes in the waning days of his term in the White House. Trump has refused to concede the election despite Joe Biden being projected the winner almost three weeks ago.
The move represents what is likely to be Trump’s closing broadside against the Russia investigation, which dogged his first two years in office and ensured six of his associates including his campaign chairman and former personal attorney.
The move will bring an end to Flynn’s dramatic case, three years after he originally pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with the top Russian diplomat in the United States and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of willingly and knowingly making false statements to the FBI as part of a cooperation deal announced in December 2017.
Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea in January 2020, however, after changing his attorneys. The Department of Justice (DOJ) later took the extraordinary step of seeking to drop the charges against the former national security adviser, saying his false statements were not “material” to the investigation.
The case had stalled as Flynn was awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI. After a failed emergency appeal from Flynn’s legal team, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan had been weighing the question of whether to grant the Justice Department’s sudden motion to drop its charges.
The DOJ reversed course on the prosecution in May, arguing that it no longer had confidence in the FBI investigation that led to Flynn’s interrogation in early 2017. The decision intensified questions about political interference in prosecutorial matters, coming just a few months after the DOJ overruled career prosecutors who had recommended a lengthy prison sentence for another Trump ally, longtime GOP operative Roger Stone, who had just been convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering.
Stone was ultimately sentenced to more than three years in prison, but Trump commuted his sentence in July, right before he was scheduled to report to a federal corrections facility.
Democrats reacted angrily to Trump’s decision to pardon Flynn. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) accused Trump of abusing his pardon power in granting clemency to Flynn and others who have connections to him.
“There is no doubt that a president has broad power to confer pardons, but when they are deployed to insulate himself, his family, and his associates from criminal investigation, it is a corruption of the Framer’s intent,” Schiff said in a statement.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) described the pardon as “undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump’s rapidly diminishing legacy.”
Flynn’s tenure at the White House was both fleeting and chaotic. Trump fired Flynn in February 2017, less than a month after taking office, after it was revealed that the adviser withheld information from Vice President Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Trump’s base of supporters have advocated for a Flynn pardon. Trump has offered words of support for his former adviser and said that he was treated unfairly by the FBI in recent months, even going so far to say in July that he would welcome Flynn back in a role at the White House.
Trump is said to be considering issuing a number of pardons before he leaves office, and reports emerged this week that he planned to pardon Flynn.
Flynn joins a list of individuals with connections to the president that he has pardoned. Trump in July commuted Stone’s prison sentence, which also stemmed from the Mueller investigation. In early 2020, Trump commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and pardoned former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and financier Michael Milken.
Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney, said in court in September that she had discussed her client’s case with the president but had urged him not to issue a pardon.
Powell was part of the Trump campaign legal team trying to challenge the results in several key states that the president lost to Biden. She was unceremoniously cut loose by the campaign on Sunday after making questionable claims of widespread fraud from elections officials.