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By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Mitch McConnell (Image source: Public domain)
It appears that Donald Trump doesn't just have Attorney General Barr doing his bidding for him, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was quick to act after Trump made a public request asking him to.
After U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan put the Justice Department's decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn on hold, McConnell is urging him to let the dropped charges stand.
"As if this debacle needed even more shocking behavior, I understand a federal judge may try to continue prosecuting one of these cases, even though the prosecution itself wants to drop it," said the majority leader in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
"The judge has taken it upon himself to go browsing for other hostile parties. Obviously, that subverts our constitutional order in which the Executive alone decides whether to prosecute cases."
It has been a long road from Flynn's alleged crime until now. He was accused of lying to the FBI and Mike Pence about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period between Trump being elected and taking office.
Flynn was fired by Trump for his lies a few weeks after being named national security adviser. He admitted to lying in December 2017 and took a plea deal. One year later Sullivan accused him of selling his "country out" at a sentencing hearing and advised Flynn to delay sentencing, noting if he sentenced him that day, he'd be getting time.
After accepting the delay in his sentencing, Flynn changed his legal team. They immediately took a different tactic. In January, Attorney General Barr asked a prosecutor to review the case, and Flynn asked to remove his plea deal. The prosecutor suggested a few weeks back that charges be dropped because of the ongoing accusations that the FBI had no basis for questioning Flynn in 2017.
The DOJ dropped criminal charges against Flynn. Sullivan put the charges on hold and said he'd accept friend-of-the-court suggestions for what to do with the charges. He also named a former federal judge in New York, John Gleeson, as a court-appointed amicus to advise him.
Additionally, he indicated he was considering pursuing contempt of court or perjury charges against Flynn relating to him reversing his other statements that were made under oath.
This all goes along with Trump's efforts to accuse former President Barack Obama and his administration of spying on his campaign. He has termed it "OBAMAGATE." He's also accusing Obama and the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, of unspecified crimes from the 2016 election.
"Certainly, you would think the outgoing Obama administration should only have used the awesome power of the federal government to pry into their political rivals if they had a slam-dunk basis for doing so. but that is not what they had," said McConnell.
"Time is running out. Get tough and move quickly, or it will be too late. The Dems are vicious but got caught," the president tweeted this past weekend. "They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our country. Don't let them get away with this!" he urged McConnell.
Separately, he tweeted, "The Republicans must play by the same rules or die!"
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fired at McConnell. He noted he was ignoring pandemic problems while bringing to light a "wild conspiracy theory aimed at somehow smearing the fine reputation that President Obama has well deserved."
"Leader McConnell, stop listening to President Trump and his wild theories and listen to the American people. We need action. We need action now," he added.
Schumer also said the Senate majority leader's remarks and Senate committees' effort to give Trump's reelection campaign a boost provide validity to his rants and obsessions.
"Senate Republicans are using their majority to pursue the president's political agenda in a time of national crisis," said Schumer. "The president is tweeting insane conspiracy theories, demanding that his water carriers on Capitol Hill make them look legitimate."
The amicus, Gleeson, has requested to have until the 10th of next month to prepare a brief that opposes the DOJ's motion to dismiss the cases.
Sullivan hasn't put a timeline out or suggested a date for a hearing, but it seemed like this could take a few months.
Two groups of former federal prosecutors are already wanting to get involved after Sullivan asked for outside voices in the matter.
"This court has no say in the federal government's decision not to prosecute," a small group of 15 Republican attorneys general said in a brief that was released Tuesday. "Simply put, the decision not to pursue a criminal conviction is vested in the executive branch alone — and neither the legislature nor the judiciary has any role in the executive's making of that decision."
Without addressing the initial charges against Flynn, the brief suggested, "The Court should leave the commentary to the commentariat."
There is also a group of hundreds of former federal prosecutors who signed a draft brief that asked Sullivan to reject the DOJ's motion and promptly sentence Flynn.
"The Court need not 'compel the government to proceed' any further with this case ... because the government has already reached the end of the road: it has already secured the defendant's guilty plea — twice," read the brief.
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