President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he has "granted a Full Pardon" to former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
"It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!" Trump tweeted.
Flynn, who was Trump's first national security adviser, pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Trump said in March that he was "strongly considering" pardoning Flynn and had told aides in recent days that he planned to pardon him before leaving office.
While the President has continued to falsely insist publicly that he won the presidential election rather than Joe Biden, the pardon of Flynn is a sign Trump understands his time in office is coming to a close. He's expected to issue a string of additional pardons before leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussion.
Flynn's tenure at the White House lasted only a few weeks and he resigned after being caught lying about his Russian contacts. At the time, Trump tweeted that he fired Flynn because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence. Sources familiar with what happened also said Flynn lied to Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, two top Trump officials at the time.
Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about those contacts, but later disavowed his plea and tried to get the case thrown out. In a shocking twist this spring, the Justice Department abandoned the case, which is still tied up in legal limbo.
Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said Flynn will be part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office.
The big picture: Flynn's pardon would be the culmination of a four-year political and legal saga that began with the FBI's investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the 2016 election. The retired lieutenant general is viewed by many Trump supporters as a victim of political retaliation by the Obama administration. Flynn's lawyers and members of conservative media have accused the FBI of entrapping him and cited his case as part of a broader campaign to discredit the Russia probe. Earlier this year, Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, another associate charged in the Mueller investigation who the president complained had been unfairly targeted in a political witch hunt.
The backdrop: Flynn's legal troubles began during the 2016 presidential transition, when he urged former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a phone call not to escalate in response to the Obama administration imposing sanctions on Russia for election interference. Flynn then lied about not discussing sanctions, to Vice President Mike Pence who repeated that denial to the media — causing alarm among Justice Department officials who feared the lies made Flynn susceptible to Russian blackmail. In January 2017, Flynn was interviewed without a lawyer present by FBI agents as part of a counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference. He later admitted to lying to the FBI as part of a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Flash forward: In January 2020, after two years of sentencing delays due to his cooperation with the Mueller investigation, Flynn and his new legal team sought to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. A federal prosecutor appointed to review the case by Attorney General Bill Barr recommended that the charges be dropped, finding that the FBI interview in which Flynn lied was "conducted without any legitimate investigative basis."
District Judge Emmet Sullivan did not immediately agree to drop the charges, and asked for outside legal experts to weigh in on the unusual case. Flynn's lawyers filed an emergency appeal to force the judge to comply with the DOJ motion. That resulted in a protracted legal fight, which ended in August with an appeals court siding with Sullivan.