The Department of Justice is moving to drop its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn for charges of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia shortly before President Donald Trump took office, The Hill reported on Thursday.
Flynn entered into an agreement in 2017 to cooperate with the Department of Justice and plead guilty, but he had since withdrawn from the plea agreement and was fighting the charges.
Documents released last month have backed claims that the FBI was out to entrap Flynn, who was ousted from the White House after misleading Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
The Department of Justice said in a court filing on Thursday that it no longer believed it could make a case against the former three-star Army general.
"The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue," the department said in its motion. "Moreover, we [do] not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt."
The department's motion will need to be approved by a judge.
Flynn's attorney did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Flynn initially admitted to urging Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak not to respond by escalating the Obama administration’s December 2016 sanctions on Moscow for interfering in the US presidential election. After that call, Russia said it would not impose any retaliatory sanctions.
He also confessed that he falsely told investigators he had not discussed Russia’s response to the sanctions with Kislyak.
The Department of Justice said it believed the FBI investigation into Flynn had been conducted improperly after uncovering new internal bureau communications.
Those records showed that the FBI had initially moved to close the investigation in 2016 after finding a lack of evidence, but the bureau neglected to approve the move, allowing agents to probe Flynn's conversations with Kislyak.
The filing submitted Thursday also notes that FBI officials had expressed doubt about whether they believed Flynn had lied during his interview.
Just before the department moved to drop the case Thursday, one of the prosecutors abruptly withdrew from the case with a one-sentence court filing.
Trump told reporters on Thursday that he was pleased to hear the DOJ's decision and wanted people "to pay a big price" for prosecuting his former adviser.
"I didn't know that was happening at this moment," Trump said. "I felt it was going to happen just by watching and seeing, like everybody else does. He was an innocent man. He is a great gentleman. He was targeted by the Obama administration and he was targeted in order to try and take down a president."
"And I hope a lot of people are going to pay a big price because they're dishonest, crooked people," he added. "They're scum and I say it a lot, they're scum, they're human scum. This should never have happened in this country.