Judge puts off approving US request to dismiss Flynn case

FILE - In this July 10, 2018, file photo, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, following a status hearing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
FILE - In this July 10, 2018, file photo, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, following a status hearing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – A federal judge made clear Tuesday that he would not immediately rule on the Justice Department's decision to dismiss its criminal case against former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying he would instead let outside individuals and groups weigh in with their opinions.

The move suggests U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is not inclined to automatically rubber-stamp the department's plan to dismiss the Flynn prosecution.

Flynn pleaded guilty, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, to lying to the FBI about conversations with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential transition period.

But the Justice Department said last week that the FBI had insufficient basis to question Flynn in the first place and that statements he made during the interview were not material to the broader counterintelligence investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The department said that dismissing the case was in the interest of justice, and that it was following the recommendation of a United States attorney who had been appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the handling of the Flynn investigation.

The decision must first go through Sullivan, who said in a written order Tuesday night that “given the current posture of this case,” he anticipated “that individuals and organizations will seek leave of the Court" to file briefs expressing their opinions.

That is a likely reference to the considerable debate the Justice Department's action has prompted over the last week, with some former law enforcement officials who were involved in the investigation expressing their dismay over the planned dismissal through public statements or newspaper opinion pieces.

The judge said he expects to set a scheduling order governing the submission of such briefs, known as amicus curiae — or friend-of-the-court — briefs.