President Donald Trump plans to pardon former national security adviser Michael Flynn, one of a series of pardons he plans to issue before leaving office, reports the New York Times. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition in 2016-2017. He was the only former White House official to plead guilty in the inquiry led by special counsel Robert Mueller. In May, the Justice Department sought to withdraw its charges against Flynn. That move has since been tied up in federal court, challenged by Judge Emmet Sullivan. Flynn, 61, served 24 days as national security adviser before the president fired him for lying about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn changed his legal team last year and sought to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he never lied to investigators and was the target of an “ambush-interview” by FBI agents seeking to entrap him. He has since become a hero figure on the pro-Trump right, portrayed as a decorated patriot victimized by the politically motivated Russia “hoax” investigation. Trump, who initially distanced himself from Flynn after his firing, has since taken up his cause, calling him “an innocent man” targeted by Obama administration officials trying to “take down a president.” Flynn has been awaiting a ruling from Sullivan on the DOJ motion to withdraw its charges. The motion raised alarms among career prosecutors about political influence at the department. Democrats fear that Trump will exercise his pardon power with a brazenness that shatters past precedent — possibly prospectively pardoning himself. Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, another associate ensnared in the Russia investigation who was convicted on seven felony counts and was to serve a 40-month prison term.