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Attorney General William “Bill” Barr has come under fire for allowing the Justice Department to drop its case Thursday against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn after Flynn repeatedly admitted to lying to the FBI.
Flynn lasted only weeks in the job before he resigned because he lied about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
In subsequent months, he repeatedly acknowledged his crimes and was once moments away from accepting his fate as a convicted felon.
Donald Trump and his political allies have maintained that Flynn was improperly targeted.
“The president debases himself and reduces himself every day by saying disgusting things about people, and in this case, saying disgusting things about people who dedicated their lives to protecting this country and their fellow citizens. That’s all horrendous and we’re, unfortunately, used to that by now. But I would point out that General Flynn was not targeted,” said former FBI assistant director Andrew McCabe. “He was properly investigated in a well-predicated case, a case that’s been — a case whose validity has been proven not just by those of us who were involved but later by the Mueller investigation and after that by the Inspector General’s investigation.
“He was investigated because we had reason to believe he presented a threat to national security,” McCabe said. “I still think that those things are worthy of investigation. Apparently the president does not.”
Some saw Flynn’s exoneration as a purely political move at a Department of Justice (DOJ) which is meant to be nonpartisan.
“It was one of the most extraordinary exercises of raw power I’ve seen on the part of an attorney general, serving just a purely political personal interests of the president. This is in that category,” MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann. “You pointed out that the history is here, but not remembering — or leaving out what happened after Mike Pence and Donald Trump said those things and sent those Tweets. What happened after that was throughout, we’ve heard Trump, on his Twitter feed, in interviews, in press conferences, expressing sympathy for Flynn, saying he wished — saying Flynn was a good man, saying Flynn was mistreated, maltreated. He’s dropped hints.
“We’ve seen this, in some sense, coming for the last couple years. And yet, you thought there was no possible way that any attorney general, given these circumstances, given the convictions, given the repeated admissions of guilt, given the plea agreements that they led to, all of those things, that you could walk it and somehow get out of this,” Heilemann added. “Yet, here we are. I just think it speaks to lawlessness, lawlessness at the top of the nation’s top law enforcement agency, an agency now operating in a purely political, totally — a totally political and a way in which, in the pursuit of political ends — abuse of power in the most naked way is just the order of the day now at the DOJ.”
Given that Flynn became one of the first Trump administration officials to flip and cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, killing the case against Flynn is the ultimate stake in the heart against the Mueller probe, according to Fox News commentator Marie Harf.
“And Donald Trump has made clear that he wants to do everything in his power to discredit the Russia investigation, even though it showed quite a bit of at least a conversation between Russian officials and Trump campaign officials. And this is the latest example of it,” she said. “Yesterday, Barr basically made a statement that said, ‘You can lie to the FBI, and that’s okay.’ And there is still a ton of evidence that the investigation was absolutely an appropriate one, that Flynn was absolutely someone who should have been investigated, and he, at the end of the day, chose to lie about his contacts with foreign countries.
“If Bill Barr wants to say that’s not a crime, that’s a precedent I’m not sure either party wants to set, Harris,” Harf said in an on-air interview.
Their actions in the Flynn case will be reflected in Trump’s and Barr’s legacies, according to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.
“The rule of law doesn’t matter. And Barr says that it’s sad that people are being partisan. It’s a confession. He is being partisan. This is like winning a baseball game — it’s like winning a double-header, and then afterwards going, ‘Eh, we give up. We’ll let you guys have this.’ When the fact is, again, he pled guilty twice,” Scarborough said. “And the precedent that is set here, that it is okay to lie to the FBI about foreign policy matters is absolutely astounding. Now, that precedent won’t be followed because Donald Trump and Barr are going to be run out of town six months from now. They’re going to be shamed for the rest of their lives. Not that it matters to them, how much shame is going to be heaped upon their shoulders for this scurrilous decision.
“But, you know, the message that it sends to the next American who lies to the FBI, but then gets thrown in jail, they’re going to be, ‘Wait a second, I thought the president said it was okay to lie to the FBI. I thought the president said it was okay to lie when you’re being investigated,’” he added.
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