WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court in Washington has agreed to reconsider a split ruling issued last month ordering the release of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who previously admitted to lying to the FBI.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered Flynn's release after determining that the court didn't have the authority to question the Justice Department's decision to drop the case.
On Thursday, the court vacated that order and set arguments over the decision for Aug. 11.
"The parties should be prepared to address whether there are 'no other adequate means to attain the relief' desired," the court said in its one-page order.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan asked for a full appeals court review of the June 24 decision following the Justice Department’s decision to drop its prosecution of Flynn. The unusual move prompted a group of nearly 2,000 former members of the Justice Department to call for the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, who they accused of having “assaulted the rule of law.”
Sullivan had declined to immediately dismiss the case, seeking instead to evaluate the Justice Department’s request on his own. In court papers filed earlier this month, he said the June 24 appellate decision marked “a dramatic break from precedent that threatens the orderly administration of justice.”
Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling. However, the Justice Department moved to dismiss the case in May as part of a broader effort by Barr to scrutinize, and even undo, some of the decisions reached during the Russia investigation.
In 2017, Trump wrote in a tweet that he "had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," but he later reversed course, painting Flynn as an innocent man who pleaded guilty under the pressure of Mueller's investigation. Trump has frequently slammed Russian election meddling probe as a "witch hunt" meant to damage his presidency.
Flynn served just 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser before he was forced to resign after White House officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.