WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump has pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” the president announced over Twitter on Wednesday.
“Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” he added.
Flynn first pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about communications with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and after cooperated extensively with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Then, in a protracted legal battle that delayed his sentence, Flynn fought to get out from under the plea, accusing the government of misconduct.
Trump had signaled he was weighing a pardon for Flynn after claiming the FBI and Justice Department “destroyed” the former adviser and his family’s life.
Flynn’s pardon marks the first handed out by Trump during the lame-duck period of his presidency, with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House well underway.
The decision appears to render moot a pending case before a Washington federal judge in which the Justice Department moved to drop the prosecution against Flynn. Had Trump not issued the pardon, the Justice Department under Biden may have withdrawn the motion.
The Justice Department in May had said it no longer considered Flynn’s false statements to the FBI to be materially false. The assertion followed a finding by a federal prosecutor, appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review the prosecution, that the FBI interview in which Flynn lied was part of an illegitimate investigation.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, said the pardon was a play by the president to ensure Flynn did not implicate him in criminal misconduct after Trump leaves office.
“This pardon is part of a pattern. We saw it before, in the Roger Stone case—where President Trump granted clemency to protect an individual who might have implicated the President in criminal misconduct,” Nadler said in a statement.
Though he did not issue a full pardon for the longtime ally, the president commuted Stone’s sentence in July. The action prompted strong criticism that Barr was using the Justice Department to hand out favors to the president’s allies and politicizing the law enforcement agency.
Congressman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who led the impeachment inquiry against Trump, said the outgoing president abused his pardon power to reward his friends and protect himself.
The White House and Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday evening.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had not immediately granted the government’s request to drop the prosecution, instead appointing a retired federal judge to argue against the motion.
Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell, who the president tapped for his legal team fighting to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election, revealed to the D.C. Circuit that she had spoken directly with Trump and asked that he not issue a pardon.
The president fired Flynn just weeks into his term of office after the top-level adviser lied to Vice President Mike Pence about not discussing sanctions with Kislyak.
Sullivan had indicated he may address whether Flynn lied under oath about the circumstances surrounding his plea agreement, meaning the former Trump adviser may still find himself in court.