Donald Trump is out of the White House in less than two months. But he has scores to settle before he vacates his chair to Joe Biden, the man who defeated him at the ballot box earlier this month. First, it was the firing of multiple officials at the Pentagon who were deemed by Trump to be insufficiently loyal to his agenda. Next came the replacement of those officials with ultra-loyalists who would implement his orders without question or reservation.
And now, Trump is levying his exclusive right to pardon people of federal crimes – a power unique to the presidency. On November 25, when most in Washington, DC were chatting about who may serve in Joe Biden’s cabinet, Trump announced that he had pardoned Michael Flynn, his short-lived national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his calls with the former Russian ambassador.
Flynn’s case was in many ways the first scandal of the Trump era. Installed as one of Trump’s most powerful national security officials, Flynn was quickly ensnared by an FBI counterintelligence probe into suspected connections between the Russian government and the Trump 2016 campaign. Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador about sanctions were a subject of inquiry in that investigation. When FBI officials interviewed Flynn about those conversations, Flynn denied ever speaking about sanctions at all. The result: Flynn lost his job and would later admit to misleading federal agents.
For the FBI, it was an open-and-shut case. Yet for President Trump, Flynn’s prosecution was actually a persecution committed by a deep-state cabal that couldn’t stand the fact that he won the presidential election. When Flynn began cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s wider investigation in exchange for a more lenient sentence, Trump’s anger rose to a boiling point. The feeling stewed within Trump throughout his presidency, persisting even after he weathered Mueller’s inquiry – a section of which centred on whether Trump himself obstructed justice by trying to convince his former FBI Director, James Comey, to back off the Flynn investigation.