President Donald Trump on Monday did not rule out granting a pardon to his first national security advisor Michael Flynn, just days after commuting the 40-month prison term of his longtime ally Roger Stone.
But Trump said “I don’t have a decision to make” about a potential pardon for Flynn “until I find out what’s going to happen” with Flynn’s efforts to get a dismissal of his conviction for lying to FBI agents.
“I think he’s doing very well with respect to his case,” Trump told reporters. “I hope that he’s going to be able to win it.”
The Justice Department has asked that Flynn’s conviction be tossed out, but Judge Emmet Sullivan so far has not ruled on that request.
A federal appeals court panel ordered Sullivan to dismiss the case, which relates to Flynn’s discussions with a Russian diplomat in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration.
But Sullivan last week asked the appeals court’s full line-up of judges to reconsider that decision.
Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell said in an email, “As I have said from the inception of my representation, the government has long withheld evidence of Mr. Flynn’s innocence.”
“The FBI and [special counsel’s office] made up this prosecution and coerced his plea by multiple means. The result for which we have steadfastly and relentlessly worked is his complete exoneration by the Department of Justice and the judicial system,” Powell said.
“We believe it is very important for the Rule of Law and the public’s trust in the system for his case to be dismissed according to the Government’s motion and because of all the newly disclosed evidence of government misconduct and his innocence.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec in an email referred CNBC to the prior court filings and statements about Flynn submitted by the department and Attorney General William Barr.
On Friday, Trump commuted the full prison sentence of Stone, a Republican consultant who was convicted at trial last fall of lying to Congress and witness tampering.
Stone, who had at one point worked on Trump’s campaign, lied to a House committee about his efforts during the 2016 election to get emails from the document disclosure group WikiLeaks that had been stolen by Russian agents from the Democratic National Committee and from the chief of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in sentencing Stone this year, said, “He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.”
Stone and Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, were both investigated and prosecuted by Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel who was tasked with probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has long been critical of Mueller’s investigation, calling the basis of it a “hoax.”
Trump said of Flynn on Monday, “I think he was persecuted.”
“He didn’t lie,” Trump said. “The FBI said he didn’t lie.”
“They treated him very unfairly, as they have many people on this side,” the president said.
Flynn, who has yet to be sentenced, has twice admitted to Sullivan that he lied to FBI agents by falsely stating that he and then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak did not discuss sanctions on Russia imposed by the outgoing Obama administration.
Flynn later recanted his confession and argued that his conviction should be thrown out because prosecutors allegedly withheld evidence from his lawyers.
The Justice Department for months fought Flynn’s efforts to get the case tossed out.
But this spring, the department abruptly changed course and asked Sullivan to dismiss the conviction.
In its dismissal request, the Justice Department did not claim that Flynn had not lied in his interview.
But the department’s court filing does say, “The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue.”
“Moreover, we [do] not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt,” the department said.
Trump was harshly criticized for commuting Stone’s sentence by former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee this year, as well as by top congressional Democrats and former prosecutors.
Mueller, who has rarely spoken out on the subject of the probe, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post, “The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”
“When a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable. It may ultimately impede those efforts,” Mueller wrote.
But Trump on Monday said of Stone, “This is an investigation that they said should have ended before it started, and if it did it should have ended immediately because they found, as you know as well as I do, they found nothing initially but it went on for two years or longer.”
“I’m getting rave reviews for what I did for Roger Stone, and he frankly is going to go and now appeal his case,” Trump said.