Media Mention

Donald Ayer: Flynn Dismissal Portends Greater Abuses

May 17, 2020

Note: this piece was originally published in The Atlantic, and was written by Checks & Balances member Donald Ayer. 

The government’s motion to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn has brought a new urgency to long-standing concerns about Attorney General William Barr’s handling of his job. In the past 15 months, the combination of Barr’s belief in an all-powerful chief executive and a president who thinks that he can do anything he desires has resulted in many actions that have severely undermined trust in an evenhanded and independent rule of law. But the Flynn dismissal motion reflects a new level of open defiance of established norms. There is reason for serious concern about what lies ahead.

The government’s supposed justification for the motion to dismiss—that it is no longer able to prove its case against Flynn for false statements made to the FBI—fails the laugh test, based on undisputed facts. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak urging Russia not to retaliate for recently imposed U.S. sanctions. Donald Trump himself fired Flynn as his national security adviser in February 2017, saying that Flynn “had lied to the vice president and the FBI.” There is no serious reason to doubt that Flynn lied, or that his actions created a risk of blackmail by the Russians. Now, after bringing charges and securing guilty pleas that were carefully scrutinized by the court, Barr’s Justice Department insists that the case is legally defective. This claim is larded with legalisms, but at its root, it is empty.

A parallel cause for alarm is the media barrage that Barr engaged in during the several weeks preceding the Flynn dismissal motion, stating repeatedly that the entire Russian-interference investigation, including the investigation of Flynn, was a malicious plot. These comments were obviously made to advance a primary narrative of Trump and his reelection campaign. But not only that: Given its timing, Barr’s press initiative also provided political cover for the meritless Flynn dismissal motion.

Continue reading at The Atlantic.