“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!”
The pardon comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.
A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan.
The move is likely to energize supporters who see Flynn’s political persecution as an example of Deep State corruption.
Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.
In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.
Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power,” while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn’s guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”
“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”
The Justice Department dismissed the case in May, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place. But then U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resisted the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government’s position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.
Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent the case back to Sullivan.
At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn’s case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.
The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department’s dismissal request.
That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.
At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump’s inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.
The Justice Department asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI’s broader counterintelligence probe.
The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Kislyak.
Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller’s witch hunt.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.