A US federal judge has said he will not immediately rule on the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss its criminal case against former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn.
District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he would instead let outside individuals and groups weigh in with their opinions.
The move suggests Judge Sullivan is not inclined to automatically rubber-stamp the department’s dismissal of the Flynn prosecution.
Mr Flynn pleaded guilty, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential transition period.
But the Justice Department said last week the FBI had no basis to question Mr Flynn in the first place, and that statements he made in the FBI interview were not material to the broader counter-intelligence investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign.
It said dismissing the case was in the interests of justice.
This came after Mr Trump tweeted his support for his former adviser, saying: “What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!”
What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2020
But the decision must first go through Judge Sullivan, who said in a written order on Tuesday night that “given the current posture of this case” he anticipated “individuals and organisations will seek leave of the court” to file briefs expressing their opinions.
That is a likely reference to the considerable debate the Justice Department’s action has prompted over the past week.
Critics included former president Barack Obama, who reportedly said the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case left him worried the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk”.
The decision was widely condemned as a stunning reversal for one of the signature cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
It came even though prosecutors for the past three years had maintained Mr Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in a January 2017 interview.
Mr Flynn himself admitted as much, and became a key cooperator for Mr Mueller as he investigated ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.