Judge in Michael Flynn case wants full appeals court to rehear dismissal of charges

Judge Emmet Sullivan said a three-judge panel's ruling to dismiss charges against the former national security adviser "threatens to turn ordinary judicial process upside down."
Michael Flynn Is Charged As Mueller Intensifies Russia Probe
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn arrives at the U.S. courthouse in Washington on Dec. 1, 2017.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Pete Williams

The judge in former national security adviser Michael Flynn's case has asked the full Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to rehear Flynn's request for an order directing him to dismiss the case as the Justice Department has sought to do.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court granted Flynn's motion and ordered U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the case last month. Now Sullivan is asking the full court to consider the issue. If the full court agrees, it would wipe out the panel's order.

In his motion, Sullivan said the panel's ruling "threatens to turn ordinary judicial process upside down."

"It is the district court's job to consider and rule on pending motions, even ones that seem straightforward," he said. "This court, if called upon, reviews those decisions — it does not pre-empt them."

Flynn twice pleaded guilty to charges that he lied to FBI agents in January 2017 about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. But after an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors fell apart in a separate case involving Flynn's former business partner, Flynn sought to withdraw his plea.

Flynn asked the appeals court last month for an order directing Sullivan, who handled his case, to dismiss it. That came after the Justice Department filed a motion to dismiss the case, which led Sullivan to appoint a retired federal judge to examine the government's justification and to analyze whether Flynn should be separately found in contempt of court for his guilty plea.

The three-judge panel also said Sullivan had no authority to appoint the retired judge.

President Donald Trump applauded the panel's ruling, saying Flynn, who was his national security adviser for the first three weeks of his administration, had been "persecuted."