US President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”
Flynn is the second Trump associate convicted in the Russia investigation conducted by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be granted clemency by the president. Trump commuted the sentence of confidante Roger Stone just days before he was set to report to prison.
Read more: Reports: Trump eyes pardon for former aide Michael Flynn
A retired army general, Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about interactions he had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States in the weeks leading up to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
He has since sought to withdraw the plea, arguing that prosecutors violated his rights and tricked him into a plea agreement. His sentencing has been deferred several times. The pardon voids the criminal case against Flynn, just as a federal judge was weighing in over whether to grant a Justice Department request to dismiss the prosecution.
Read more: US court orders Michael Flynn case dropped
Flynn’s was the highest-profile pardon granted by Trump since he took office. Flynn served as Trump’s first national security adviser but Trump fired him in early 2017 after just 22 days.
He was one of several former Trump aides to plead guilty or be convicted at trial in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election.
Read more: US drops criminal case against ex-Trump adviser Michael Flynn
In one key phone call with the Russian ambassador, Flynn sought to diminish the impact of sanctions and expulsions announced by then-President Barack Obama against Moscow.
Flynn had also taken significant sums of money over the previous two years for appearances with Russian companies — including one in which he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow gala. However, Trump always defended Flynn, calling the case against him a politicized “witch hunt.”
Democrats, however, slammed the pardon. “Trump has once again abused the pardon power to reward Michael Flynn, who chose loyalty to Trump over loyalty to his country,” said Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee which also investigated Russian collusion.
“Flynn lied to the FBI about his communications with the Russians — efforts which undermined US foreign policy after sanctions were imposed on Russia for interfering in our elections,” he said.
“A pardon by Trump does not erase that truth, no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”
Read more: Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone appeals prison sentence
lc/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters)