/Charges against ex-Trump adviser dropped

Charges against ex-Trump adviser dropped

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pictured in 2018Image copyright

The US Department of Justice is moving to drop the criminal charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn was among the ex-Trump aides convicted during the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference.

He had pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the US.

The news the case will be dropped comes as Flynn sought to withdraw his plea.

The justice department’s decision also follows criticism of the case by President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Flynn, a retired Army three-star lieutenant general, left the White House in February 2017.

On Thursday, Mr Trump said he was “very happy for General Flynn”.

Why is the case being dropped?

In a court filing first reported by the Associated Press, the justice department said it moved to dismiss the case “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information”.

The department said the interview between investigators and Flynn in January 2017 was “unjustified” and not conducted on a “legitimate investigative basis”.

It also said it could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Flynn had lied, and said that after the interview, FBI agents had “expressed uncertainty as to whether Mr Flynn had lied”.

The department also said proving someone made a false statement to federal investigators “requires more than a lie”.

“It also requires demonstrating that such a statement was ‘material’ to the underlying investigation.”

What’s the reaction?

Mr Trump was informed by reporters in the Oval Office of the department’s decision.

He said he was unaware of it at the time, but had “felt it was going to happen”.

“He was an innocent man,” the president said. “He was targeted in order to try and take down a president.”

“I hope a lot of people are going to pay a big price. They’re scum.”

Former FBI director James Comey, who has been a critic of the president since he was fired in May 2017, tweeted that the justice department “has lost its way”.

“But, career people: please stay because America needs you. The country is hungry for honest, competent leadership.”

What’s the background?

Flynn lasted just 23 days as national security counsel adviser – the president’s chief adviser on international affairs and defence.

Mr Trump fired him after it emerged that he had discussed lifting sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to Washington before Mr Trump took office and had lied to the vice-president about that conversation.

In March, Mr Trump said he was considering pardoning Flynn.

Though he initially agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, Flynn asked to withdraw his guilty plea this January.

With the help of a new legal team, he had accused prosecutors of misconduct, including withholding evidence.

Attorney General Bill Barr appointed US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen to review the handling of Flynn’s case earlier this year.

Mr Jensen said in a statement that he “concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case”.

Just ahead of the announcement, US media reported that prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, who was a member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, had stepped back from handling the case.

No further details were given regarding his withdrawal.

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