WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The judge hearing the criminal prosecution against U.S. President Donald Trump’s former adviser Michael Flynn on Thursday asked an appeals court to reconsider a recent decision dismissing the case.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan asked the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the June 24 decision that directed him to drop the Flynn case.
The Justice Department sought to dismiss the case against Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, following pressure from Trump and his allies, leading to criticism that Attorney General William Barr was using his office to help the president’s friends.
Sullivan refused to immediately sign off on the dismissal, instead appointing a retired judge to argue in favor of denying the Justice Department’s request.
Sullivan has said he cannot serve as a “rubber stamp” and must carefully review the dismissal request.
In a 2-1 decision issued last month, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit directed Sullivan to grant the department’s motion to clear Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty.
“This is plainly not the rare case where further judicial inquiry is warranted,” Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, wrote for the court, adding that Sullivan had intruded on “the executive branch’s exclusive prosecutorial power.”
Sullivan’s attorneys told the appeals court the panel decision marked a “dramatic break from precedent” that “threatens to turn ordinary judicial process upside down.”
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.
He then switched lawyers to pursue a new scorched-earth tactic that accused the FBI of entrapping him, and asked the judge to dismiss the charge.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Leslie Adler, Richard Chang and Tom Brown)