Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan may not scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop its long-running prosecution of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and must dismiss the case, an appeals court ruled Wednesday, the Washington Post reports. In a 2-1 decision, the court said it is not within the judge’s power to prolong the prosecution or examine the government’s motives for its reversal in the politically charged case. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his pre-inauguration contacts with Russia’s ambassador before DOJ moved in May to dismiss the charges.
“This is not the unusual case where a more searching inquiry is justified,” wrote Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump nominee, who was joined by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson. Dissenting Judge Robert Wilkins said, “It is a great irony that, in finding the District Court to have exceeded its jurisdiction, this Court so grievously oversteps its own.” Sullivan refused to sign off on the Justice Department’s plans, and instead appointed a former federal judge to argue against the government’s position and help him decide how to proceed. Former judge John Gleeson characterized the government’s move as a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” and “highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President.” Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall called Gleeson’s report a “polemic” and urged the court not to get pulled into a “political spectacle.”