Former President Barack Obama on Friday stated the “rule of law is at risk” in response to the Department of Justice dropping its criminal charges against retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, according to an audio call obtained by Yahoo News.
“The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said during a virtual discussion with members of the Obama Alumni Association. “The fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”
Exclusive: Obama, in private talk with ex-aides, says "the rule of law is at risk" in Flynn case and calls Trump response to pandemic an "absolute chaotic disaster." Listen to the tape: https://t.co/HUOXFvPI1m
— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) May 9, 2020
During his remarks on Flynn, Obama erroneously said the former White House national security advisor pleaded guilty to perjury. Rather, he was charged for lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during President Trump’s transition period. Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 as part of then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into now-debunked collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. In January, the Justice Department changed its sentencing recommendation for Flynn from probation to six months in jail, prompting the former Trump official to withdraw his guilty plea, citing prosecutors breaking their plea agreement.
Obama criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, referring to it as an “absolute chaotic disaster.”
Obama also discussed the importance of the presidential election in November, vowing to campaign vigorously for the presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden, who served as his vice president.
“This election that’s coming up on every level is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party,” the former president said. “What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life.”
“That’s why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden,” he added.
Obama’s comments regarding Flynn come after newly released documents show the former president was aware of the details of Flynn’s intercepted December 2016 telephone calls with Kislyak.
Breitbart News reported:
The documents from the government’s motion to dismiss their case against Flynn show, however, that at a January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting with then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Obama had asked Comey and Yates to “stay behind.”
Obama told them he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Kislyak, where they discussed sanctions his administration had levied against Russia. (A memo penned by then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice also showed that Biden stayed behind as well.)
Obama “specified he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.”
The Justice Department’s Thursday decision to drop its case against Flynn comes after handwritten notes written by FBI officials questioned whether the “goal” was “to get [the Trump official] to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
Ahead of the filing’s release, prosecutor Brandon Van Grack moved to withdraw from the case.
In an interview with CBS News, Attorney General William Barr defended the decision, saying he was “doing the law’s bidding’
“A crime cannot be established here. They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage,” Barr said in reference to the FBI.
“People sometimes plead to things that turn out not to be crimes,” he added.
President Trump praised the DOJ’s decision, calling Flynn an “innocent man,” and a “great gentleman.”
“He was targeted by the Obama administration and he was targeted in order to try and take down a president,” the president said. “I hope a lot of people are going to pay a big price, because they’re dishonest, crooked people. They’re scum, and I say it a lot, they’re scum, they’re human scum. This should never have happened in this country.”