President Donald Trump’s security adviser Michael Flynn was the first casualty of ‘Russiagate’ impeachment push, but the case against him seems weaker than ever, after a federal judge voided the conviction of his business partner.
Flynn, a retired general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was forced to resign in February 2017, after less than two weeks of serving as national security adviser. He was snared in an FBI perjury trap as part of surveillance of the Trump campaign – which was predicated on claims it was “colluding” with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
Though the original ‘Russiagate’ scandal more or less imploded when special counsel Robert Mueller admitted there was nothing there in his final report, Democrats have moved to impeach Trump anyway, now claiming he had sought help from Ukraine to influence the 2020 election.
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Flynn’s case is still pending, but the prosecutors just suffered a major setback. On Tuesday, Judge Anthony Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia threw out the jury conviction of his business partner Bijan Rafiekian, saying that the government “failed to offer substantial evidence” he acted as a foreign agent of Turkey.
“The evidence was insufficient as a matter of law for the jury to convict Rafiekian,” Trenga wrote in his ruling, granting Rafiekian’s motion for acquittal. If the prosecutors successfully appeal the decision, he would have to be tried all over again.
BREAKING: Court grants Motion for Acquittal for Bijan Rafiekian (Flynn Intel Group/Turkey/FARA case).
“The evidence was insufficient as a matter of law for the jury to convict Rafiekian on either count”
Huge blow to DOJ National Security Division. pic.twitter.com/bOPdMoHpeb
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) September 24, 2019
While Flynn was not charged as a co-conspirator in Rafiekian’s case, prosecutors tried to add the claim that he deliberately lied to the government about his company’s violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to Flynn’s admission of allegedly lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US.
It was the investigation of Flynn that triggered the special counsel probe, after sacked FBI director James Comey claimed Trump had asked him to “let it go,” thus obstructing justice.
Flynn’s sentencing is still pending, but the Rafiekian decision increases the odds that his own case might be thrown out. The judge in the case is already on record disliking the practice of prosecutors withholding exculpatory evidence – also known as Brady materials – from the defense. Earlier this month, Flynn’s lawyers demanded this evidence, and argued that the entire case should be thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct.
Powell pointed out a number of missing documents and Brady failures:
– failure to produce the original Pientka 302
– failure to produce Strzok/Page text messages in a timely fashion
She argued that Flynn would never have pled guilty if prosecutors met their Brady obligations
— Will Chamberlain (@willchamberlain) September 10, 2019
Meanwhile, Flynn has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to decline testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Flynn will “not appear before your committee on September 25, 2019 to be paraded, harassed or disparaged for doing so,” his attorney Sidney Powell said in a letter to chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) on Monday.
Powell also called Schiff’s demand “theatrical” and accused the Russiagate-promoting congressman of “disregard for propriety, professionalism, prior practices and ethics.”
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