“Any reasonable American witnessing the actions of the last several weeks must seriously question whether the Department of Justice can any longer claim its proud tradition of professionalism and independence from political influence.”
[WASHINGTON, DC] – After the Department of Justice dropped charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz calling for an independent inquiry into the unprecedented decision and “the Department’s pattern of politicized decision making.” Blumenthal and Whitehouse sent a similar letter to Jeffrey Ragsdale, Acting Director of the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
“The facts of the Flynn case are clear. Flynn broke the law. The Justice Department’s claim that it would be unable to prove Flynn’s lies were ‘material’ to their investigation defies belief,” Blumenthal and Whitehouse wrote. “If powerful individuals can lie to investigators with impunity, law enforcement will be unable to protect the public.”
In December 2017, Flynn entered into a plea bargain under which he admitted to “willfully and knowingly” making false statements to investigators in an effort to impede a federal investigation. Under the terms of the deal, Flynn was not prosecuted for any additional federal crimes, provided he cooperate with investigators in their ongoing probe into the Trump Administration. As President Trump continued to issue public statements indicating support for allies who broke the law to cover up his own misdeeds, Flynn became less cooperative with federal investigators.
In today’s letter, Blumenthal and Whitehouse noted that in the midst of President Trump’s frequent and misleading criticisms of the Flynn investigation, the President dangled the possibility of a pardon, but also indicated that he hoped such a step wouldn’t be necessary. “Then the Department dropped its charges, in a filing signed only by a political appointee who President Trump has not even bothered to submit for Senate confirmation. Every career prosecutor involved in the case declined to participate in this mockery of justice, and no Justice Department official or outside expert can find a precedent for such a blatant abdication of the Department’s responsibilities,” Blumenthal and Whitehouse wrote.
This decision represents a pattern of political interference at the Department of Justice under Attorney General Barr. Earlier this year, four career prosecutors handling the case against Roger Stone resigned in protest because political leadership sought a more lenient sentence for the convicted felon. In November, a jury found Roger Stone guilty of multiple felonies, including witness tampering and obstruction of Congress. After President Donald Trump called the sentence “a horrible and very unfair situation,” noting also that the “real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them,” Justice Department leadership intervened to overrule their own prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation.
The full text of Blumenthal and Whitehouse’s letter is available here.