Susannah Colt: Flynn’s pardon and a confession of guilt

For the Monitor
Published: 12/12/2020 6:00:14 AM

Following-up on my essay about Gen. Michael Flynn’s pardon by President Donald Trump (Monitor Opinion, Dec. 3), there is a new development to report.

On Dec. 8, the judge in Flynn’s criminal case issued a ruling on the prosecution’s motion to dismiss. Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the criminal case against Flynn, determining that it was moot in light of the presidential pardon.

In a 43-page decision, Judge Sullivan outlined a long and convoluted case that started when Flynn personally asked for a favor from the Russian ambassador in December 2016 that would have undermined the sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. Flynn then lied to the FBI about the conversation and was criminally charged in 2017.

The decision reminds me of a legal thriller with many plot twists that keeps you reading late into the night. The pardon by Trump is the anti-climactic ending, leaving many unsolved mysteries and a lack of closure for the reader. Perhaps John Grisham can put his skills to the task of writing that book.

The bottom line is the court would have denied the motion to dismiss, refusing to be a “rubber stamp” for a prosecutor who clearly was swayed by the president, who was trying to protect Flynn.

The best part of the decision is when Judge Sullivan, citing Burdick v. U.S. (the case I discussed in my essay), stated a pardon “carries an imputation of guilt” and acceptance of a pardon is a “confession” of guilt.

It turns out, back in September, Flynn’s attorney had asked the president not to pardon him. She knew the well-established rule cited in Burdick and a pardon would thwart her effort to clear his name. There will never be a trial in his case but the imputed verdict of guilty will always follow Flynn. The sad part is he will never be punished for his crime and justice will have once again been perverted by President Trump.

(Susannah Colt lives in Whitefield. She can be reached at

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