A federal judge closed the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by President Donald Trump, but suggested that the Justice Department’s handling of the matter was highly irregular and potentially improper, the Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote that he was “troubled by the apparently pretextual nature of certain aspects of the government’s ever-evolving justifications” during the three-year saga. Considering Trump’s Nov. 26 pardon of Flynn, Sullivan ended the case. In doing so, he took aim at the way the Justice Department had tried to dismiss the case in May, suggesting that but for the pardon, he may have denied their bid and forced Flynn to go to trial or to prison.
In a bid to dismiss the case, federal attorneys argued that false statements Flynn made to the FBI about his conversation with the Russian ambassador—to which Flynn pleaded guilty—weren’t “material” to any investigation that was then under way. Prosecutors offered a theory that Flynn may have made the statements due to a faulty memory and raised concerns about the FBI’s handling of the investigation that cast doubt on the credibility of officials and witnesses involved in the case. Sullivan noted that the government ignored the fact that Flynn had pleaded guilty under oath before the court and that his own statements in that plea could be used to prove his guilt.