President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and has discussed the matter with his aides. Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. If Trump goes ahead with his plans, Flynn could be the last of the high-profile names to be pardoned by the President before he leaves the White House for one final time on January 20, 2021.
However, the source who spoke to Axios media about the chances of Flynn getting pardoned also cautioned that Trump could also finally change his mind about making such a move. Two other people who too are under consideration for getting a pardon from the outgoing President are George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort.
Will Flynn be the Lucky One?
Trump has time and again claimed that he and his campaign were illegally targeted and that the campaign associates were made victims only because of their association with him. Flynn is often viewed by many Trump supporters as a victim of political retaliation by the Obama administration.
Flynn getting a pardon would make it the latest instance of the President using his expansive pardon power for a high-profile ally. Trump till date has pardoned a number of high-profile people but most of them have been marked by personal relationships and showmanship. There have been a number of people who have won clemency from Trump by approaching their friends, news channel presents and Hollywood celebrities who are close to the President. These include names like Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff, Dinesh D'Souza, right-wing commentator, and Michael Milken, a financier convicted of securities fraud.
However, Flynn's case is different. His lawyers have accused the FBI for making him a scapegoat by entrapping him and projected it as a broader campaign to discredit the Russia probe.
The Strange Case of Flynn
Earlier this year, Trump had commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, another associate charged after an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, which Trump has time and again claimed to be a part of a political witch hunt. Flynn's troubles in the White House began during the weeks of 2016 Presidential transition.
Flynn allegedly had requested former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak over phone not to escalate in response to the Obama administration imposing sanctions on Russia for election interference. On being exposed, Flynn had initially denied the allegations. He further lied about not discussing sanctions to Vice President Mike Pence who repeated that denial to the media.
This raised concerns among Justice Department officials that Flynn's lies could make him a victim of blackmail from Russia. However, later in 2017, Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI as part of a plea deal with Mueller.
However, things came to a standstill for some time. After two years of sentencing delays due given that Flynn cooperated with the Mueller investigation, his new legal team in January 2020 sought to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. Things only got complicated since then.
A federal prosecutor appointed to review the case later recommended that the charges against Flynn be dropped, finding that the FBI interview in which Flynn lied was "conducted without any legitimate investigative basis." Over the years, Flynn has emerged as an emblem of Trump's efforts to undermine the Russia investigation and a conduit for testing the separation of powers between judges and prosecutors.
If Flynn now gets pardoned, not only will it bring a sigh of relief for the retired lieutenant general but also be a victory of sorts for Trump during his final days at the White House.