Attorney General William Barr called the Justice Department’s decision Thursday to drop the case against President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI his “duty” – saying he wanted to “restore confidence in the system.”
“I want to make sure that we restore confidence in the system. There’s only one standard of justice,” Barr told CBS News’ Catherine Herridge. “And, I believe that… justice, in this case, requires dismissing the charges against General Flynn.”
When Herridge asked if Barr was doing the president’s bidding, he responded: “I’m doing the law’s bidding.” Barr added, “A crime cannot be established here.”
The attorney general, speaking out for the first time since the bombshell development, said he was “prepared” for blowback from Democrats. “I also think it’s sad that nowadays, these partisan feelings are so strong, there’s no sense of justice,” he added.
Barr made it clear his Justice Department would continue to investigate other aspects of the Russia investigation.
Earlier on Thursday, the DOJ announced it had dismissed its case against Flynn, in a stunning development that came after internal memos were released raising serious questions about the nature of the investigation that led to Flynn’s late 2017 guilty plea of lying to the FBI.
The announcement came in a court filing “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information,” as the department put it. DOJ officials said they concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
Flynn in January moved to withdraw his guilty plea for lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, citing “bad faith” by the government. That court filing came just days after the Justice Department reversed course to recommend up to six months of prison time in his case, alleging he was not fully cooperating or accepting responsibility for his actions.
The case had been plodding through the court system with no resolution ever since his original plea, even amid speculation about whether Trump himself could extend a pardon.
Reaction to the dismissal of Flynn’s case drew a sharp divide down partisan lines, with President Trump praising Flynn as “an innocent man” and an “even greater warrior.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., meanwhile, slammed the DOJ’s move as “outrageous” and said he would be calling for an inspector-general investigation into the matter.
“The decision to drop the charges against General Flynn is outrageous,” Nadler said in a statement. “The evidence against General Flynn is overwhelming. He pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. And now, a politicized and thoroughly corrupt Department of Justice is going to let the president’s crony simply walk away.”
Flynn’s case stemmed from a 2017 FBI interview, in which he was asked about his conversations with former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty to making false statements regarding those conversations during his interview, as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Flynn resigned from his White House post in February 2017. The resignation came as he was accused of misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other senior White House officials about his communications with Kislyak. Pence, after being briefed by Flynn, had said in television interviews that Flynn did not discuss sanctions with the ambassador.