The long legal drama surrounding Michael Flynn, briefly President Trump's first national security adviser, is lurching toward another courtroom showdown this month. A full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled Aug. 31 that U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan can continue his examination of the Justice Department's decision to drop Flynn's prosecution, and Sullivan has selected Sept. 29 as the date the Justice Department and Flynn's defense team will appear in court to press him to dismiss the case.
After Attorney General William Barr controversially decided to drop the case in May, arguing that Flynn did not commit a crime because the FBI should not have interviewed him, Sullivan appointed a retired federal judge, John Gleeson, to argue against the Justice Department's motion. In a 30-page filing Friday, Gleeson tore into Barr, calling his move a "corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system."
"In the United States, presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty — twice, before two different judges — and whose guilt is obvious," Gleeson wrote. Flynn admitted to lying "to the FBI about coordinating activities with the Government of Russia" during an active investigation of such coordination, and "that is about as straightforward a case of materiality as a prosecutor, court, or jury will ever see."
Flynn's lawyer Sidney Powell, who convinced him to try and withdraw his guilty plea, called Gleeson's filing "predictable and meaningless." The Justice Department has argued that the courts don't have the authority to "look behind" its decisions or motives. A three-judge panel of the appellate court agreed, 2-1, but the full panel reversed course, giving Sullivan a green light to proceed in an 8-2 vote. Sullivan was supposed to sentence Flynn in December 2018, and Flynn was expected to get no jail time.