A US federal appeals court ordered a judge to immediately dismiss the criminal case against Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
A divided three-judge panel on Wednesday said US District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington did not have the authority to decide on his own whether to grant the government’s surprise motion to dismiss the case or examine whether it was part of a corrupt effort to aid one of Mr Trump’s political allies.
“This is plainly not the rare case where further judicial inquiry is warranted,” the court said. “The government’s motion includes an extensive discussion of newly discovered evidence casting Flynn’s guilt into doubt.”
The 2-1 ruling is a win for Mr Trump, who has repeatedly slammed the case against Mr Flynn as part of a broader conspiracy by Democrats to undermine him and his administration.
The Justice Department under William Barr, the US attorney general, reversed course on its prosecution of Mr Flynn last month, requesting the court drop the case because Mr Flynn’s false statements to two federal agents were not “material” to their investigation and they set him up to lie as part of a biased agenda.
The panel divided along party lines, with Mr Trump appointee Neomi Rao joining with George H.W. Bush appointee Karen Henderson in the majority and Barack Obama appointee Robert Wilkins dissenting. The split could tee up an appeal to the full circuit court in Washington or even the U.S. Supreme Court.
The president quickly hailed the ruling on Twitter.