General Michael Flynn: who is the ex-national security adviser Donald Trump has pardoned - and what did he do?

President Donald Trump has used his presidential powers to excuse his former security adviser from an investigation into his involvement in Russian interference

President Trump has used his presidential powers to acquit his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, of being investigated for aiding in Russian collusion during the 2016 election.

The US Department of Justice has been carrying out an investigation into advisers of the president and their relationship with Russian officials which could have led to an obstruction of justice.

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President Trump fired Mr Flynn, tweeting in December 2017 “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” - but he insisted Mr Flynn’s conversations were lawful.

General Flynn has been pardoned by Trump

Who is Michael Flynn?

The former US lieutenant general was heavily involved in the shaping of the US approach to counterterrorism, before being appointed Donald Trump’s national security adviser.

Following his time in the armed forces, he founded an intelligence service - aimed at informing businesses and government - named Flynn Intel Group.

This organisation worked across various countries, including Turkey, where he lobbied governments.

Throughout Trump’s presidential campaign for the 2016 US presidential election Flynn was a special adviser, despite being an avid Democatic party supporter for many years.

He was later given the role of Security Adviser, an appointment that lasted for only 22 days, from the day after Trump was sworn in as president on 22 January until 13 February 2017.

Mr Flynn is the shortest serving adviser in this role.

What did he do?

Mr Flynn was fired after it emerged he had misinformed Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his involvement in lobbying in Turkey when he was a foreign agent.

It is alleged that he had discussed lifting sanctions on Russia with Moscow's ambassador to Washington before President Trump was elected.

In December 2017, he entered a guilty plea bargain with the US department of Justice - admitting he had ‘willfully and knowingly’ misinformed the FBI.

Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who was appointed to investigate the interference of Russians in the 2016 election, accepted the plea as Flynn agreed to fully cooperate.

However, in January 2020, Flynn sought to reverse his guilty plea - arguing he had been manipulated by the government.

On 7 May, it was announced that the US Justice Department intended to drop all charges against him, however this was yet to formally take place.

On 25 November 2020, president Trump stated that he would presidentially pardon Michael Flynn. Trump’s 28th pardon was widely expected.

What is a presidential pardon?

A presidential pardon is the act of completely lifting the punishment of a citizen for a US federal crime.

The president cannot pardon crimes against a state, only having the power to pardon "Offenses against the United States.”

This is the highest level of clemency, with other options including commutation, remission of fine or restitution, and reprieve.

Why has he been granted clemency?

Trump announced his decision in a tweet on Tuesday, 25 November.

He wished the Flynn family a great Thanksgiving, tweeting: “It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon.

“Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”

It is thought the ex-serviceman was held in exceptionally high regard by the president and his associates and that Trump may offer similar acquitals to other advisers and secretaries such as Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, who are also being investigated by Counsellor Muller.

What have the reactions been?

While the Republican party has largely congratulated Mr Flynn on his pardon, thanks to his work supporting the party in the election.

Following the decision by Trump, the White House released a statement saying Mr Flynn was "the victim of partisan government officials engaged in a coordinated attempt to subvert the election of 2016".

Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy tweeted: "What happened to @GenFlynn was a national disgrace. No American should ever be targeted for simply belonging to a certain political party."

However, the Democrats have raised questions about the motivation behind Trump’s actions.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee said: “Trump has once again abused the pardon power to reward Michael Flynn, who chose loyalty to Trump over loyalty to his country.

“There is no doubt that a president has broad power to confer pardons, but when they are deployed to insulate himself, his family, and his associates from criminal investigation, it is a corruption of the framers’ intent.”