The US Army is reviewing an internal watchdog report from the Department of Defense into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, The Washington Post reported.
In April 2017, the Pentagon launched an investigation into money Flynn received from Russian and Turkish interests after his retirement but before he joined former President Donald Trump’s administration.
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to investigators as part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn admitted that he misled investigators in a January 2017 interview about his communications with Russia’s then-ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.
He was initially cooperative with the FBI, but in 2019, he reversed course, fired his entire defense team, and hired Sidney Powell as his lawyer. In January 2020, Flynn tried to retract his guilty plea.
Trump pardoned Flynn last November.
CNN reported that then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe investigation into the 2016 election had put the DoD’s investigation into Flynn on hold.
The DoD Inspector General’s office did not reply to Insider’s email request for comment at the time of publication.
DoD spokeswoman Dwrena Allen told CNN that following Flynn’s pardon, they were granted permission from the Department of Justice to resume the investigation, which was completed on January 27, 2021.
The investigation looked into whether or not Flynn violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which stipulates that officials such as retired military members can’t accept money or gifts from foreign governments.
The Post reported that the payments from Russia were from 2015, when Flynn was paid $45,000 for appearing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner for the state-controlled outlet RT. His company, Flynn Intel Group, was also paid $530,000 by a Netherlands-based company, Inovo BV, in 2016. The company was founded by a Turkish businessman and lobbies on behalf of Turkey.
In 2017, the DoD said that Flynn did not seek permission to work as a foreign agent on behalf of Turkey.
The results of the report could mean, Flynn, who retired from the Army as a three-star general in 2014, could face tens of thousands of dollars in penalties.
In the final days of his term, President Donald Trump considered making Michael Flynn his chief of staff, according to the New York Times.
Flynn was the former national security advisor who was fired just weeks into the job.
He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of lying to investigators as part of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, he admitted to misleading FBI investigators in a January 2017 interview about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, during the 2016 transition period.
“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!”
A month later, Trump floated the idea of bringing Flynn back into the White House, with just weeks to go before the transition to the Biden administration, the Times reported.
At a White House meeting, Trump said he wanted Flynn to look over the FBI. He also considered establishing Flynn as his chief of staff, according to the Times.
It’s unclear whether Trump was serious about the suggestions, the Times reported. Flynn declined the offers because he wanted to pay down the legal debts from participating in the Russia investigation.
In the public eye, Flynn has continued to be one of Trump’s most ardent supporters. He was booted off Twitter in January, after using the platform to urge Trump to use martial law to overturn the results of the presidential election.
Joe Biden won the election in November. But in the weeks following, Trump and his supporters – like Flynn – continuously made baseless allegations of fraud to try an make Americans believe the results were invalid.
Flynn leveraged his QAnon fanbase to pay down the legal bills he amassed during the Russia investigation, the Times reported. Flynn has been selling merchandise like T-shirts and hats featuring the “Where we go one, we go all” QAnon motto.
On his way out of office, President Donald Trump issued more than 100 pardons, mostly to his personal friends and political allies.
A number of those pardons were for people convicted of federal crimes linked to the Mueller investigation – including his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and advisors Roger Stone and George Papadopoulos.
Trump was sure to malign Mueller’s investigation in his pardon notices. The press release for Manafort’s pardon, for example, said he was “prosecuted in the course of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, which was premised on the Russian collusion hoax.”
Though the president’s pardon powers are broad, a number of prosecutors and experts on clemency laws don’t believe those people are off the hook just yet.
Trump pardoned Manafort for his specific convictions. It’s much more narrowly tailored than the pardon Trump gave to Flynn, for “any and all offenses arising out of the facts and circumstances” brought by Robert Mueller’s office.
“It says ‘for his conviction’ and that’s it. It’s just for the crimes for which he was convicted,” Kimberly Wehle, a University of Baltimore law professor, told Insider. “That is a different wording than Richard Nixon received under his pardon, which is for ‘all conceivable crimes.'”
Wehle, who worked under Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in the Justice Department, said presidents must specify the specific crimes being pardoned.
Beyond that, prosecutors can always try to bring different charges using the same set of underlying facts, she said.
The same point was brought up by Andrew Weissman, Mueller’s second-in-command, in an article for the blog Just Security on Wednesday. Weissman argued that while Flynn’s pardon left “no room for now holding Flynn to account for his past felonious conduct,” the pardon for Manafort was full of holes.
“Specifically, the pardon is solely for the crimes of conviction … That leaves numerous crimes as to which Manafort can still be prosecuted, as in Virginia there were 10 hung counts,” Weissman wrote. “In Washington, the situation is even more wide open. In that district, Manafort pleaded to a superseding information containing two conspiracy charges, while the entire underlying indictment – containing numerous crimes from money laundering, to witness tampering, to violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act – now remains open to prosecution as there was no conviction for those charges.”
Prosecutors need to make sure they don’t run afoul of the statue of limitations – though Manafort waived some of those protections, Weissman said. And a judge might decide that prosecutors are simply repackaging the same actions for which a person was pardoned into different crimes, which may run afoul of the Constitution’s double jeopardy protection.
But Wehle said there’s plenty of case law for judges to review. While federal prosecutors have rarely tried to go around presidential pardons, state-level prosecutors have often brought new criminal charges following governors’ state-level pardons and succeeded.
“Say there was a robbery and a murder, and you’re indicted and prosecuted for the robbery, and then later they come back and indict you and prosecute you for the murder,” Wehle said. “I don’t think there’s this a problem with fairness in there.”
Experts think Flynn may not be safe either
Some pardon attorneys even believe that federal prosecutors may still be able to bring new charges against Flynn.
Margaret Love, a clemency attorney and US Department of Justice pardon attorney between 1990 and 1997, believes the pardon for Flynn may have asserted powers that Trump didn’t actually have.
Love told Insider that while Trump could grant Flynn clemency for the crimes he was prosecuted for, a judge might decide that the “any and all offenses arising out of the facts and circumstances” part of it might not hold water.
“The president can assert whatever power he has, but at issue is whether he has the power,” Love said, adding: “I believe there is a strong argument that the constitutional pardon power requires a degree of specificity as to what crime it is pardoning.”
Even the broad pardon Ford gave to Nixon, Love said, has never been tested. The Justice Department never brought the issue before a court to decide whether the sweeping nature of the pardon was valid.
The question of whether Flynn’s pardon would prevent future prosecutions now depends on the appetite of Justice Department prosecutors, and it’s an open question whether Biden’s selection for attorney general, Merrick Garland, would choose to bring another case against him.
“Whoever is the prosecutor in the Flynn case will undoubtedly be looking closely at [the pardon] wording, just like Andrew Weissman was looking closely at [the] Manafort pardon,” Love said. “Then they will decide what to do.”
Attorneys for Manafort and Flynn didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
President Donald Trump, in a White House meeting, raised the possibility of imposing martial law in a bid to overturn the result of the presidential election, according to reports Saturday.
In a raucous meeting Friday with top aides about his ongoing attempts to overturn the election, Trump was joined by General Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor, reported The New York Times.
A few days earlier on the conservative Newsmax network, Flynn had called for the president to impose martial law, and “rerun an election” in swing states that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden in November.
In the meeting, according to the Times, Trump asked about the idea.
According to the report, it wasn’t the only last-ditch plan to subvert the election discussed in the meeting, with Trump also proposing appointing conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell as a special counsel to probe election fraud claims. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, touted the idea of ordering the Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines.
Axios confirmed key details of the meeting, reporting that Trump had expressed interest in Flynn’s plan, and that White House officials are concerned Trump is “spending too much time with people they consider crackpots or conspiracy theorists and flirting with blatant abuses of power.”
Shouting matches broke out in the meeting as other officials pushed back against Flynn’s and Powell’s proposals, reported CNN, whose source said it was unclear if Trump had endorsed the notion. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and counsel Pat Cipollone were among the officials who pushed back against the ideas, according to the report.
In a tweet Saturday, Trump responded to the reports, dismissing them as “fake news.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.
The president has broad powers to suspend normal legal constraints on his authority in response to a “national emergency,” such as a natural disaster or terror attack, including deploying troops within the US to subdue unrest and assist law enforcement officers.
However, Joseph Nunn, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, in October, wrote that the legal precedents for a president imposing martial law are vague, with no clear Constitutional principles or Supreme Court rulings governing its use. He wrote that under current law, “the president lacks any authority to declare martial law.”
In an interview on CNN Saturday night, John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, described Flynn’s plan to impose martial law as “appalling.”
“Look, this is appalling,” he continued. ‘There’s no other way to describe it. It’s unbelievable, almost certainly completely without precedent.”
Trump has previously been accused of seeking to violate norms against deploying the military against US citizens. The president planned to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy troops to quell anti-racism protests over the summer.
On Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, in a joint statement reported by Task and Purpose, responded to Flynn’s call for martial law to be imposed, reiterating the US military’s policy of having no involvement in domestic elections.
They said that that there “is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.”