Even as the coronavirus pandemic continued to dominate headlines and the attention of the American public, Donald Trump turned his own attention to the Russia collusion investigation that overshadowed the first two years of his term. Specifically, Trump tweeted about his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In December 2017, Flynn pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators in the Russia probe, as documented in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, posted online by The New York Times.
But despite Flynn’s guilty plea, which he made as part of a cooperation agreement with Mueller, Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday that he is “strongly considering a Full Pardon” for Flynn. If Trump follows through on the tweet, Flynn would become the first figure in the Russia collusion investigation to receive a pardon.
Trump has long defended Flynn, floating conspiracy theories to claim that Flynn was “entrapped” and that the prosecution of Flynn was actually a plot to “embarrass the President of the United States.” But in a December 2018 court appearance, Flynn himself denied those theories, saying that he was not entrapped and that he knew he was lying when FBI investigators asked him about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Mueller reported that Flynn lied when he denied discussing United States sanctions on Russia and how Russia should respond to those sanctions, during the transition period between the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017.
But more than two years after his guilty plea, Flynn has yet to spend a day behind bars, and in fact, has yet to be sentenced. In January, Flynn changed his earlier tune, now saying that he “never lied” to the FBI, according to a report by CNBC.
Flynn — who served as Trump’s National Security Adviser for less than one month, before he was forced out over his Russia contacts — is now attempting to reverse his guilty plea, according to the CNBC report. Federal prosecutors say that they would agree to Flynn serving a sentence consisting only of probation, with no prison time, if the judge in the case denies his attempt to change his guilty plea.
The judge, Emmett Sullivan, later said that he would postpone Flynn’s sentencing indefinitely — though in December 2018, Sullivan told Flynn in court that his crimes were “very serious” and that the retired Army Lieutenant General “sold your country out.” Sullivan also asked prosecutors at that time if they had considered charging Flynn with treason.
But on Sunday, Trump threatened to end the whole process by issuing a pardon for Flynn, accusing the FBI of “destroying his life & the life of his wonderful family.” A pardon, however, would not reverse Flynn’s guilty plea, as he currently seeks. While a pardon restores a convict’s civil rights, it does not expunge the conviction itself.