Florida Attorney General to federal judge: Drop the Michael Flynn case

Ashley Moody is one of 15 state attorneys general to sign onto a supporting legal brief.
Attorney General Ashley Moody
Attorney General Ashley Moody [ Times (2019) ]
Published May 19, 2020|Updated May 19, 2020

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked a federal judge on Monday to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to drop its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The request came in the form of a brief filed jointly by 15 attorneys general, all Republicans. The filing, which was announced by the Republican Attorneys General Association, amounted to more than a dozen of the country’s top legal officers weighing in on the most controversial case of the day.

Moody’s decision to sign onto the brief, which was confirmed by her office Monday, is fraught with political implications. President Donald Trump is moving aggressively to undermine the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which consumed the early years of his first term.

The Flynn case is at the heart of those efforts.

In a stunning and unusual move, the Department of Justice earlier this month moved to drop its case against Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the Russian investigation. Despite the plea, Flynn has reemerged as a vocal defender of the President and a critic of the investigation.

Trump, who said in 2017 that he fired Flynn in part for lying to the FBI, supported the move to drop the charges.

“General Flynn is being persecuted!” Trump tweeted last week.

Moody’s filing is not the first instance of the attorney general acting in concert with the Trump White House. In 2019, Moody pushed for the U.S. Census to include a question asking whether the respondent was a citizen of the United States, despite worries the question would have led to thousands being uncounted. The question was not ultimately included.

The filing is what’s called an amicus brief, a legal document filed by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter. It’s up to the court to decide if the brief has any relevance to the case. Moody’s predecessor, Pam Bondi, signed on to such briefs frequently, siding with those opposing guns laws in New York, clean-up efforts in Chesapeake Bay and federal pollution mitigation efforts led by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Related: Florida Attorney General pushed for Census citizenship question despite expected undercount in state

CNN reported Monday that the other attorneys general involved in the Flynn brief hailed from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

A federal judge, Emmet Sullivan, now must decide whether to accept the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss the case against Flynn.

The brief Moody and the other attorneys general signed, which was written by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, argued Sullivan must accept the government’s decision to end the Flynn prosecution. It is not the place of a judge to decide whether a government should pursue a case, it contended.

“Judges have no share of the executive power, and thus no say in the decision whether to prosecute,” the filing reads, according to CNN.

The viewpoint of the Republican attorneys general has its share of critics. More than 2,300 alumni of the Department of Justice have condemned the department’s move to drop the charges against Flynn in an open letter.

“Attorney General Barr has once again assaulted the rule of law,” the letter read.

The alumni are urging Sullivan to take a close look at the the Department of Justice’s motion to end the Flynn case, and deny it “if appropriate.