A retired judge, appointed by the court to make arguments, on Friday said the U.S. Department of Justice should not be allowed to drop its criminal case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The Justice Department’s effort to drop the case was a “corrupt and politically motivated favour unworthy of our justice system,” John Gleeson, a former trial judge and prosecutor, said in a court filing.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington had asked Gleeson to present arguments for why the Justice Department’s request to drop the case should be denied.
Sidney Powell, a lawyer for Flynn, called Gleeson’s filing a “smear” that ignored evidence that the Flynn prosecution “was corrupt from its inception.”
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, pleaded guilty two times to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, concerning U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow under U.S. President Barack Obama.
Flynn was charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump’s candidacy.
While awaiting sentencing by Sullivan, Flynn sought to withdraw his plea, switching lawyers to pursue an approach that accused the FBI of setting him up.
Trump has said Flynn was treated unfairly in the case, despite admitting in early 2017 that his appointee had lied to Vice-President Mike Pence about his interactions with Kislyak.
Democrats have said the Flynn case is an example of Attorney General William Barr improperly meddling to help Trump’s friends and political allies.
Flynn and the Trump administration have said Sullivan is required by law to grant the request for dismissal.
The judge said he is “not a rubber stamp” and wants to carefully scrutinize the Justice Department’s request before deciding whether to grant it.
Earlier this year, Flynn asked an appeals court to order Sullivan to end the case. The court denied the request on Aug. 31, saying Sullivan had the authority to appoint Gleeson and hear arguments.
Sullivan could still dismiss the Flynn case, or be ordered to do so by the appeals court.
Trump has also suggested he could pardon Flynn.