Ex-Trump adviser Flynn, Justice Department to push appeals court to drop lying charge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and the Justice Department will team up on Friday in an unprecedented legal battle to force a federal judge to dismiss a criminal charge of lying to which Flynn has already pleaded guilty.

Lawyers for the Justice Department and Flynn will each argue before a federal appeals court that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had trampled on the executive branch’s powers by refusing to grant their request to dismiss the case.

Attorney General William Barr ordered the department on May 7 to dismiss the case against Flynn following pressure from Trump and his allies, leading to criticism that Barr was using his office to help the president’s political allies.

In oral arguments set to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT), Beth Wilkinson, an attorney retained to represent Sullivan, will argue that the judiciary branch is not a mere “rubber stamp” and that Sullivan has a duty to ensure that dismissing the charge is in the public interest.

Retired Army Lieutenant General Flynn was one of several former Trump aides charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn switched lawyers to pursue a new scorched-earth tactic that accused the FBI of entrapping him, and asked the judge to dismiss the charge.

Sullivan refused to go along and tapped retired Judge John Gleeson to present arguments for why the charge should not be dismissed.

On Wednesday, Gleeson filed a brief excoriating the Justice Department for “gross abuse” and urging Sullivan to sentence Flynn.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said he plans to hold a hearing to dissect the case after it concludes.

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