One of the most powerful political inflection points in Washington today comes from the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is currently embroiled in an ugly tug of war between the Justice Department and the alleged Deep State.
Flynn was earlier charged with lying to the FBI in a case that kicked off the 22-month, $25 million RussiaGate investigation. Now, years later as Flynn attempts to withdraw the guilty plea that his previous counsel had entered for him, recently declassified notes from the FBI agents who interviewed him seem to indicate that they had considered tricking Flynn into lying to them in order to charge him with that very crime.
Upon the public disclosure of this information, the Department of Justice dropped all charges against Flynn, theoretically setting him free. Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is presiding over the case, rebuffed the DOJ by allowing further amicus briefs to be argued that could land Flynn back in the system.
As further legal maneuvering occurs, and new names are added to the mix, the argument over the legality and morality of these motions is at the center of a heated series of exchanges on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., two of the most vocal members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, clashed Thursday over comments Whitehouse made calling one of the judges now reviewing proceedings in the Michael Flynn case a “cartoon of a fake judge.”
The dispute followed a request from Flynn’s lawyers earlier this week for an emergency writ of mandamus — an order from a higher court telling a lower official how to do their job — from the D.C. Circuit Court that would order District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan to let the Department of Justice (DOJ) drop its prosecution of Flynn, overturn a previous order from Sullivan allowing outside parties to weigh in on the case and take Sullivan off of it.
A three-judge panel for the circuit court Thursday directed Sullivan to respond to Flynn’s petition, a sign that it is taking the request seriously, provoking Whitehouse to slam one of the Trump-appointed judges in comments posted to Twitter.
Then came the war of words.
“Where you see [D.C. Circuit Court Judge] Neomi Rao, you can expect a lot of Trumpy dirt to follow,” Whitehouse said. “She’s a cartoon of a fake judge. Watch this space.”
Lee fired back, criticizing Whitehouse for an “ad hominem” attack on the sitting judge who Whitehouse has previously said has an “ideology … birthed in the petri dish of the Republican corporate donor class.”
“Not cool, Sheldon,” said the senator, who has been on President Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist. “Judge Rao is a gifted, hard-working legal scholar and jurist. I know you disagree with her here—and I strongly disagree with you on that point—but is it ever appropriate to call a sitting jurist ‘a cartoon of a fake judge’? I can’t think of a good reason. Ever.”
Lee continued: “I disagree with federal judges all the time. I even express my disagreement. But what good comes from this kind of an ad hominem attack on an individual jurist, using words like ‘cartoon’ and ‘fake’?”
Even Ted Cruz got in on the action, characterizing Whitehouse’s comments as “shameful”.
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