President Trump praised his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and tore into the administration of former President Barack Obama on Thursday after learning that the Justice Department had dropped its case against Flynn.
“He was an innocent man,” Trump said of Flynn during a meeting at the White House with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. “Now in my book he’s an even greater warrior.”
The Justice Department’s move to drop its case comes shortly after internal memos were released that raised serious questions about the nature of the investigation that led to the retired Army lieutenant general’s 2017 guilty plea for lying to the FBI.
Those documents showed how agents discussed their motivations for interviewing him in the Russia probe—questioning whether they wanted to “get him to lie” so he'd be fired or prosecuted, or get him to admit wrongdoing. Flynn allies howled over the revelations, arguing that he was essentially set up in a perjury trap.
Flynn in January moved to withdraw his guilty plea for lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, citing "bad faith" by the government. That court filing came just days after the Justice Department reversed course to recommend up to six months of prison time in his case, alleging he was not fully cooperating or accepting responsibility for his actions.
The case had been plodding through the court system with no resolution ever since his original plea, even amid speculation about whether Trump himself could extend a pardon.
Trump on Thursday claimed Flynn was a target of the Obama administration and called the investigation into his former national security adviser treasonous.
“They’re human scum,” Trump said. “It’s treason.”
The president also targeted the news media for its coverage on Flynn, and called on the New York Times and the Washington Post to return their Pulitzer prizes for coverage on the investigations into Russian interference during the 2016 election.
“Those writers... are thieves,” Trump said. “They should be forced to give back Pulitzer prizes.”
Flynn's case stemmed from a 2017 FBI interview, in which he was asked about his conversations with former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty to making false statements regarding those conversations during his interview, as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Flynn resigned from his White House post in February 2017. The resignation came as he was accused of misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other senior White House officials about his communications with Kislyak. Pence, after being briefed by Flynn, had said in television interviews that Flynn did not discuss sanctions with the ambassador.
Following Flynn's resignation, Trump quickly tweeted a defense of Flynn’s exit from the White House in 2017 – arguing that despite Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, his actions were lawful.
"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.