A federal judge on Tuesday will weigh whether to grant a request by the Justice Department to dismiss a criminal charge against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn in a highly anticipated court hearing.
The hearing will pit the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense attorneys against John Gleeson, a former trial judge who was tapped by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan to argue against the government’s position that the case should be dropped.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump’s candidacy.
Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office concerning U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia under President Barack Obama.
Last year, Flynn switched lawyers and pursued a scorched-earth defense strategy by claiming the FBI had set him up.
In May, Attorney General William Barr stunned many in the legal community when he ordered prosecutors to have the case dropped. Critics have accused Barr of giving special treatment to Trump allies.
The unusual move led Sullivan to tap Gleeson, whom he instructed to argue against the Justice Department’s legal position.
Flynn’s attorneys tried to force Sullivan’s hand by appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that Sullivan is required by law to grant the Justice Department’s request for dismissal.
Sullivan has said he is “not a rubber stamp” and wants to carefully scrutinize the Justice Department’s request before deciding whether to grant it.
The court handed Flynn a victory in June, and directed Sullivan to drop the criminal charge, but the win was short-lived.
Sullivan asked the court for a re-hearing of the case, and on August 31, the appellate court overturned the prior order, saying Sullivan has the authority to appoint Gleeson and hear arguments.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Berkrot)