Justice. Rebuke.

Ms. Strassel’s conclusions say it all.  mrossol

WSJ. 11/26/2020 By

Chief Justice John Marshall once described the presidential pardon as “an act of grace.” In the case of Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s pardon was something more. It was a requirement of justice.

Mr. Trump announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d granted Mr. Flynn a full pardon. Liberals and the media are (as per their tedious usual) claiming the president stepped in to aid a corrupt crony. This has it exactly backward. The Flynn pardon was necessary—to correct a corrupt Federal Bureau of Investigation, a rogue special counsel, an unprincipled federal judge, and an embarrassingly complicit media.

This story dripped out over years, so it took until recently to get a full accounting of the government’s Trump-by-proxy takedown of Mr. Flynn. A decorated veteran, Mr. Flynn advised the Trump campaign and in November 2016 was named national security adviser. The FBI had spent months monitoring him as part of its Russia-collusion fantasy, yet by Jan. 4, 2017, it had found nothing and moved to close its case.

In rushed Peter Strzok—the now-disgraced then-FBI agent—to keep the investigation open. The FBI had snooped on a Flynn call to the then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. This is perfectly legal; ask Joe Biden’s team, which is making such calls now. The FBI nonetheless debated a ludicrous Logan Act charge, before settling on a simpler course. As former FBI counterintelligence head Bill Priestap put it in handwritten notes, one FBI option was “to get [Mr. Flynn] to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

The FBI didn’t need to interview the National Security Agency about his conversation; it had the transcript. Yet the bureau’s then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe sandbagged Mr. Flynn, arranging for him to meet with FBI agents without a lawyer. Former FBI Director Jim Comey later gloated over the setup. The FBI also chose not to provide Mr. Flynn a standard warning against lying, to keep him comfortable. Despite all this, the agents reported—according to government notes—that they “believe that F. believes that what he said was true.” He didn’t intentionally lie.

Fast forward to Robert Mueller, who didn’t care. The FBI knew in January 2017 that its collusion investigation was a bust; it confirmed the Steele dossier was a fabrication. So Mr. Comey engineered a special counsel to salvage the FBI’s reputation by ginning up unrelated “crimes.” Mr. Mueller dredged up the Flynn interview and threatened to prosecute the former national security adviser’s son unless Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying. Facing bankruptcy, Mr. Flynn succumbed to this naked abuse of power.

Hope came with a new lawyer and Attorney General William Barr’s 2020 decision to review the case. But even as the executive branch moved to right its wrongs, a federal judge took up the persecutorial torch. In May the Justice Department moved to drop its case, presenting Judge Emmet Sullivan with veteran prosecutor Jeffrey Jensen’s assessment that the FBI never had a legitimate purpose in interviewing Mr. Flynn, that he should never have been prosecuted. The department also presented papers documenting the FBI’s shocking behavior.

The Justice Department, not judges, makes the call on whom to prosecute. Yet Judge Sullivan refused to accept the withdrawal, instead indulging his politics and his inner petty tyrant. He went so far as to appoint a fellow conspiracy theorist, retired Judge John Gleeson, to spout evidence-free claims that prosecutors were giving special treatment to Mr. Flynn. Judge Sullivan’s behavior was so outrageous that a federal appeals panel in June ordered him to dismiss the case. The full appellate court in August agreed to let him hold a hearing while warning him to get his act together.

Judge Sullivan held his hearing in September but by this week had yet to rule. Mr. Trump might have waited, in hope that Judge Sullivan would feel mounting pressure to regain some credibility by dismissing. Then again, there was every reason to believe the judge would string this out beyond Jan. 20. He’s made clear all along he wants Mr. Flynn subject to an avenging Biden Justice Department. Not because Mr. Flynn broke the law, but because Mr. Flynn is a stand-in for a president the judicial, prosecutorial and media elites despise.

That’s the sad reality of the Flynn mess. In a better world, the Flynn case would have been dismissed with prejudice, an on-the-record censure of appalling FBI and Justice Department behavior. But that’s why the judge refused to do it. It had nothing to do with guilt or innocence—but rather reputation. We remain in the last gasps of Never Trump world, where people of power told themselves it was OK to break rules, norms, standards—even the law—in their quest to take the president down. To dismiss the Flynn case would have been to acknowledge that this behavior was wrong. And that would have been too painful, too embarrassing, too galling for the haters.

So it was left to the White House to make this right, to take a wrecking ball to a rigged system. Mr. Trump acted correctly. And there could have been no more fitting, final rebuke to four years of drive-by shootings than to release the man the cabal claimed as its very first victim. Justice indeed, and on many levels.

Write to kim@wsj.com.


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