(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday agreed to rehear arguments over whether the judge assigned to the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, must grant a request to dismiss it.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it would hold an oral argument in the politically charged criminal case on Aug. 11.
In a 2-1 decision on June 24, a three-judge panel of the same court ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration and said U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington had to grant the Justice Department’s motion to clear Flynn.
Sullivan asked the full court to reconsider the three-judge panel’s ruling, saying the Justice Department’s dropping of the Flynn case was unprecedented and had to be carefully scrutinized.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, 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 then switched lawyers to pursue a new scorched-earth tactic that accused the FBI of setting him up, and asked the judge to dismiss the charge.
After the Justice Department took the highly unusual step of seeking to abandon the case against Flynn, Sullivan appointed a retired judge to argue against the Justice Department’s request.
Sullivan, represented by his own lawyers, has said he cannot serve as a “rubber stamp” and must carefully review the facts before deciding on the request for dismissal.
The D.C. Circuit panel disagreed in June, saying Sullivan was intruding on the Justice Department’s authority to decide which cases it pursues.
Democrats have said the Flynn case is an example of Attorney General William Barr improperly meddling to help Trump’s friends and political allies.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe in Truro, Massachusetts and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese, Richard Chang and Jonathan Oatis)