SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is one of 15 Republican attorneys general asking a federal judge to allow the Department of Justice to drop its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Attorney General William Barr wants the case dismissed in a move that has angered Democrats and some in the legal profession but also rallied supporters of President Donald Trump as he faces reelection during the coronavirus pandemic.
The friend of the court brief from the attorneys general came days after nearly 2,000 former DOJ employees condemned Barr’s motion to dismiss the case, and isn’t without political implications.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan effectively put on hold the government’s move to drop the case. Sullivan wants to hear from outside groups before deciding whether to grant Barr’s motion.
“This brief filed in the Flynn case involves important questions about separation of powers, one of the founding principles of our Constitution. The judicial and executive branches have essential but different roles to play. In our system, the court cannot be both prosecutor and judge,” Reyes said in a statement.
Reyes is a co-chairman of Trump’s reelection campaign in Utah. Trump recently endorsed Reyes in his own bid for reelection, calling him a big supporter of the administration’s agenda.
Reyes faces Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in the June 30 Republican primary election. The winner faces Democrat Greg Skordas.
Trump has voiced strong support for Flynn, raising speculation that a pardon may be coming after Flynn’s lawyers disclosed internal FBI documents they claim show the FBI was trying to entrap him, according to the Associated Press.
Led by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, the attorneys general argue that Sullivan should immediately grant the DOJs motion to dismiss all charges against Flynn “because the federal judiciary has no authority to make the executive branch pursue (or continue to pursue) a criminal conviction,” according to the friend of the court brief.
“Simply put, the decision not to pursue a criminal conviction is vested in the executive branch alone — and neither the legislature nor the judiciary has any role in the executive’s making of that decision,” the brief says.
The group also says Sullivan should grant the motion without commentary on the decision to charge or not to charge because “such punditry disrobes the judiciary of its cloak of impartiality.”
“It has become trendy in recent years for courts to weigh in on the wisdom of this administration’s policy decisions. Too often, that commentary comes in grandiose terms more appropriate for an op-ed than a judicial opinion,” according to the brief.
“This trend is disastrous for the judiciary, because it erodes public confidence in the courts’ ability to serve as neutral arbiters in politically sensitive cases.”
Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and ardent supporter of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during Trump’s presidential transition.
He struck a plea deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But Flynn’s sentencing in late 2018 was derailed when he realized he could face prison time and he later hired a new legal team and sought to withdraw his plea, according to an account on Law.com.
In addition to Yost and Reyes, GOP attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia signed the brief.