The judge overseeing the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn has until May 31 to explain his rationale for declining to dismiss the case after the Justice Department moved to drop charges, Politico reports. A panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said trial judge Emmet Sullivan must respond to a request by Flynn that the higher court force him to drop the case. The order is the latest twist in an unusual series of events that have thrown the Flynn case into turmoil. Appeals Judges Karen Henderson, Robert Wilkins and Neomi Rao offered the Justice Department a chance to weigh in by the same deadline.
Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017, and he agreed to cooperate with federal investigators probing Trump campaign contacts with Russians in 2016. Sullivan appeared poised to sentence Flynn to prison time in late 2018, despite prosecutors’ initial request for leniency but gave Flynn a chance to complete his cooperation with the government. Soon after, Flynn changed course, replacing his legal team, alleging misconduct by federal prosecutors handling the case and ultimately moving to rescind his guilty plea, claiming it was coerced by prosecutors and that no crime had been committed. Attorney General William Barr opted to abandon the prosecution, citing supposedly improper motivations for the FBI’s initial interview with Flynn. Sullivan appointed a former federal judge, John Gleeson, to review the matter and recommend whether the charge should be dropped and if Flynn should be held in contempt of court. Flynn responded by seeking a writ of mandamus from the appeals court, a rarely used measure that would compel Sullivan to end the case.