Er … did anyone think Donald Trump wasn’t planning to pardon Michael Flynn? Of all the figures involved in Russia-gate, Trump’s former national-security adviser seemed the most likely candidate for immediate executive clemency. The circumstances around the FBI’s decision to charge him with lying to investigators has always appeared somewhat dodgy, and the FBI’s misrepresentations in the Carter Page FISA warrant has further undermined their political credibility — even though it has apparently had no impact on Flynn’s prosecution after twice pleading guilty.
Yesterday, however, Trump emphasized that a Flynn pardon may come soon, as a result of alleged new developments in the case:
Did the FBI lose its records? The Washington Post isn’t quite sure what Trump means by this, as neither the prosecution nor Flynn’s defense have submitted new briefs in the case lately:
It is unclear what records Trump was referencing when he alleged that the Justice Department had “lost” material related to the case.
Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney, has argued in court that prosecutors have not turned over certain documents to Flynn and his legal team that might be exculpatory, but her allegations have been disputed by prosecutors and rejected by the federal judge overseeing the case. No new filings have been made in the case in several weeks.
NBC isn’t sure either, but they note that the Department of Justice has been reviewing Flynn’s prosecution for the last month, as directed by Attorney General William Barr. Did Trump hear something from the inquiry about the FBI’s record-keeping?
Last month, NBC News reported that the Justice Department had opened an inquiry into the FBI’s interview of Flynn while he briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser.
Attorney General William Barr asked the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Jeffrey Jensen, to review the matter, people familiar with the inquiry said. …
The Justice Department and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about what Trump was referring to.
The inquiry will likely focus on why the initial assessment that Flynn had been truthful got changed, and whether Flynn’s complaint that FBI agents didn’t disclose that they were speaking to him as part of an investigation holds any water. Thus far it hasn’t with the trial judge, who has angrily swatted down attempts by Flynn’s team to reopen those questions. Pleading guilty twice in court makes it difficult to prevail on those attempts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the initial charges should have been brought. (An inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t have been brought either, of course.)
It’s possible that Trump has gotten a briefing on a status report from the Jensen inquiry. If the FBI can’t produce records to sustain the indictment to Jensen, that would be news — perhaps especially to the court. One would think that prosecutors would be required to make that known to the defense as soon as they have been made aware of it. On the other hand, this might just be Trump’s interpretation of information provided to him rather than a finding or admission. That would explain why neither side has offered any brief to the court regarding “lost” records.
In the end, though, does it matter? Trump will pardon Flynn sooner or later. He’s only waited this long because Powell wants to clear Flynn’s name without relying on executive clemency. Maybe Trump’s getting tired of waiting for that process to play out.