Attorney General William Barr has arguably been the most productive member of President Donald Trump’s administration.
But a lot of people are demanding answers after the Department of Justice issued a stunning reversal this week regarding Gen. Michael Flynn.
Barr’s DOJ has abruptly given notice that Flynn, who previously served as Trump’s national security adviser, deserves to spend up to half a year behind bars.
As noted by the Associated Press, DOJ attorneys laid their reasoning out in a sentencing memo, arguing that Flynn was failing to take responsibility for his actions.
The timetable here is crucial.
Following the 2016 election, Flynn met with Russia’s Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed. Then, Flynn served as a national security adviser for less than a month in 2017 before submitting his resignation in February of that year.
In January 2017, Flynn was interviewed about the meeting by now-fired FBI official Peter Strzok.
Strzok reported that Flynn made misleading statements, an offense to which he subsequently plead guilty.
The DOJ originally recommended that Flynn was eligible to bypass prison time because of his willingness to extensively cooperate with investigators, including former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Now, the DOJ has taken issue with Flynn’s legal team’s attacks on the Mueller investigation in recent months.
“Indeed, the government has reason to believe, through representations by the defendant’s counsel, that the defendant has retreated from his acceptance of responsibility in this case regarding his lies to the FBI,” prosecutors said when asking for a sentence of up to 6 months.
“For that reason,” the memo continues, “the government asks this Court to inquire of the defendant as to whether he maintains those apparent statements of innocence or whether he disavows them and fully accepts responsibility for his criminal conduct.”
In their sentencing memo, government lawyers say the interview between Flynn and Strzok was predicated on legitimate grounds.
There are countless issues surrounding Strzok, his role in the Russia probe, and this interview he had with Flynn.
Strzok served as the No. 2 counterintelligence analyst at the FBI before being fired from Mueller’s team after an internal probe found that he had sent hundreds of anti-Trump text messages to Lisa Page, a former lawyer at the FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair.
In several of those messages to Page, Strzok called Trump supporters a bunch of ignorant hillbillies; spoke about an “insurance policy” in the case that Trump won the election; mentioned a “secret society” to unseat a duly elected president; and implied that he and others at the bureau would never let Trump be president.
Beyond that, Trump has subtly suggested that he is open to issuing a pardon for Flynn because he was treated “very unfair” in the Russia probe.
While speaking to reporters on Christmas Eve, the president expressed sympathy toward former associates Roger Stone and Flynn amid speculation over whether he might consider pardons in connection with the Russia investigation he calls a “witch hunt.”
“Am I going to pardon him? Well, I hadn’t thought of it,” Trump said. “I think it’s very tough what they did compared to what they do to other people on their side.”
Many are calling on Trump to pardon them all after he likely wins re-election in 2020.