WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge wants third parties to weigh in before he rules on whether the Justice Department can dismiss the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The Justice Department had urged Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Bill Clinton appointee, to immediately dismiss Flynn’s case last week, as it now says the false statements Flynn admitted to making to FBI agents were not “materially” false.
In a minute order Tuesday, Sullivan carved out time for third-party individuals and organizations to file friend-of-the-court briefs. The judge said he would, “at the appropriate time,” enter a scheduling order governing the submission of the briefs.
Flynn, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, was kicked out of his White House role in 2017 for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. He pleaded guilty later that year to lying to the FBI about the conversations with the ambassador regarding easing U.S. sanctions.
“Mr. Flynn entered a guilty plea — which he has since sought to withdraw — to a single count of making false statements in a January 24, 2017, interview with investigators of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. … This crime, however, requires a statement to be not simply false, but ‘materially’ false with respect to a matter under investigation,” U.S. Attorney Timothy Shae wrote in the government’s May 7 motion to dismiss.
Sullivan’s move on Tuesday comes a day after nearly 2,000 former Justice Department officials called for Attorney General William Barr to resign because of the motion to dismiss Flynn’s case.
“Make no mistake: The department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented,” the DOJ alumni wrote in a letter on Monday. “If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the president, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.”
They argue that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Flynn.
Flynn’s attorneys quickly pushed back against Sullivan’s Tuesday order, arguing that third-party attempts to intervene should be rejected “for the same reason as all prior attempts by third parties have been.” They also note the court had denied, on 24 specific occasions, other attempts by third parties to intervene in the case.
“Moreover, this travesty of justice has already consumed three or more years of an innocent man’s life — and that of his entire family,” Flynn’s attorneys wrote in a court filing. “No further delay should be tolerated or any further expense caused to him and his defense.”
The attorneys said Sullivan’s order came after a group referring to itself as “Watergate Prosecutors” submitted a notice of intent to file arguments in the case.
“The proposed amicus brief has no place in this court,” the attorneys wrote. “No rule allows the filing, and the self-proclaimed collection of ‘Watergate Prosecutors’ has no cognizable special interest.”