CNN’s Honig Slams Mike Flynn Pardon as ‘Wild Abuse of Power’

In the aftermath of President Donald Trump pardoning retired General Mike Flynn, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig declared that the move is a “wild abuse of power” as he and other CNN regulars failed to inform viewers of the argument in favor of exonerating the former national security advisor.

By contrast, Fox News viewers were much more informed as legal analysts like Jonathan Turley and Gregg Jarrett made the argument that General Flynn did nothing illegal and was pressured into pleading guilty to perjury he did not commit to keep his son from having to fend off a similarly heavy-handed investigation.

Plugging the segment on Thursday afternoon, CNN host Brooke Baldwin made General Flynn sound unequivocally guilty: “President Trump pardons Michael Flynn, a man who admitted to lying to the FBI on more than one occasion, and the President reportedly is just getting started.”

After a commercial break, she read President Trump’s tweet pardoning Flynn and recalled that Democrats called the move an “abuse of power” before going to Honig for reaction. Cuing him up, she reiterated: “And again, just too remind everyone, you know, this is a guy who pleaded, you know, admitted guilt — pleaded guilty on more than one occasion to lying to the FBI.”

Without providing any argument in favor of the pardon, Honig was all negative as he predicted: “It’s worth pausing for a second to appreciate just what a wild abuse of power this is. I mean, law school students 20, 30 years from now are going to be studying this. This is going to  be high on the list of most dubious pardons we’ve ever seen in our history.”

A bit later, he again played up how corrupt he thought it was:

This is what makes it really a unique abuse of power — Michael Flynn was in the process of cooperating with prosecutors — with Robert Mueller — when the President started floating this possibility of a pardon. And here we are a couple of years later — Flynn has been paid in full — he did not cooperate. And I think that’s what separates this from other historical dubious pardons that we’ve seen.

When asked by Baldwin who else President Trump might pardon, Honig went on to wildly speculate that the President might pardon several others, including his daughter, Ivanka, and himself:

Oh, boy. All right, let’s see. We’ve got – you’ve got to look at the other people from the Mueller case — Paul Manafort, Roger Stone. His sentence was commuted — now, he’s lobbying for the whole pardon. Why not? Trump’s handing them out like candy. George Papadopoulos, other political allies. Family members — potentially, Don Junior, potentially Ivanka. Jared Kushner’s father was convicted of federal crimes a few years ago in federal court here in New Jersey. And then, of course, the big question: Will the President have the gall to try to pardon himself?

On Wednesday morning, as CNN’s New Day discussed the expectation that Flynn would be pardoned, the show similarly did not give any argument in favor of such a move, and correspondent Jeremy Diamond described the move by the Justice Department to drop the case as “irregular.” California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff was also allowed to come on the show and react negatively to the expected pardon.

By contrast, on Thursday’s Fox & Friends, liberal Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley argued that General Flynn had not committed a crime, had been financially ruined paying for legal costs, and pleaded guilty to prevent his son from being similarly targeted.

He also recalled that the FBI agents who initially interviewed Flynn did not believe he was intentionally lying about his discussions with Russian officials in part because he knew that there was a transcript of his conversations that they had available to check against his recollections.

A bit later, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett — who has written extensively and published two books on the Russia probe — similarly argued that Flynn had not broken the law and merely had normal interactions with Russian officials as part of his job.

The heavily misleading episode of CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin was sponsored in part by Fidelity. Their contact information is linked.

Relevant transcripts follow:

CNN Newsroom

November 26, 2020

3:20 p.m. Eastern

BROOKE BALDWIN (before commercial break): President Trump pardons Michael Flynn, a man who admitted to lying to the FBI on more than one occasion, and the President reportedly is just getting started.

(…)

3:25 p.m.

BALDWIN: In what may be a signal that Donald Trump is accepting he may be a one-term President, he has pardoned Michael Flynn. And, like most of his major announcements, it came via tweet. Quoting the President here, “It is my great honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a full pardon. Leading Democrats called it an abuse of power, but they may have to get ready to say that again. 

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig is with me now. Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for being on with he. What do you think of the Flynn pardon? And again, just too remind everyone, you know, this is a guy who pleaded, you know, admitted guilt — pleaded guilty on more than one occasion to lying to the FBI.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, for sure, Brooke. I know we all saw this coming. And I know this pardon happened by tweet on the eve of Thanksgiving. But it’s worth pausing for a second to appreciate just what a wild abuse of power this is. I mean, law school students 20, 30 years from now are going to be studying this. This is going to  be high on the list of most dubious pardons we’ve ever seen in our history.

And I’ll give you two reasons. First of all, Michael Flynn was a political ally, a close political advisor, as you said, the national security advisor for the President. We’ve had a few that arguably fall into that category. Number two, though — and this is what makes it really a unique abuse of power — Michael Flynn was in the process of cooperating with prosecutors — with Robert Mueller — when the President started floating this possibility of a pardon. And here we are a couple of years later — Flynn has been paid in full — he did not cooperate. And I think that’s what separates this from other historical dubious pardons that we’ve seen.

BALDWIN: Who else, Elie? I mean, he’s supposed to be — Flynn is expected to be the first of several. What other names are you watching for?

HONIG: Oh, boy. All right, let’s see. We’ve got – you’ve got to look at the other people from the Mueller case — Paul Manafort, Roger Stone. His sentence was commuted — now, he’s lobbying for the whole pardon. Why not? Trump’s handing them out like candy. George Papadopoulos, other political allies. Family members — potentially, Don Junior, potentially Ivanka. Jared Kushner’s father was convicted of federal crimes a few years ago in federal court here in New Jersey. And then, of course, the big question: Will the President have the gall to try to pardon himself?

(…)

Fox News Channel

Fox & Friends

November 26, 2020

6:04 a.m. Eastern

JONATHAN TURLEY, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: This pardon would not have been necessary if the judge in the case, Judge Sullivan, had simply issued a final decision. This is a bizarre case because the Justice Department sought to drop the charges — decided that he was improperly charged because of what has come out recently. And what the judge did is refuse to issue that order, and he was ultimately taken up on appeal. A panel ruled against him and ordered him to dismiss the case. That was then later reversed by the full court, which said that “we have to give Judge Sullivan a chance to do the right thing — to finish the case and then we’ll review it.” Well, it went back — and in a third sentencing hearing, Sullivan again refused to issue a final decision — said that he had still questions about the case. He even asked the lawyers in the case what would happen if he just waits for a Biden Justice Department — whether that would change things. 

And so many of us were highly critical of Judge Sullivan’s handling of the case. And that’s why this is a rather unique situation. I do not feel comfortable with the President pardoning associates — I don’t feel comfortable with any President pardoning political associates — but this is not your normal case. I mean, this case should have been dismissed a long time ago. 

And, also, he should not have been criminally investigated. … General Flynn’s investigation for criminal conduct fell apart in December of 2016 — by January 2017, the Justice Department was asking to get to end that investigation. It was stopped by Peter Strzok — one of the figures that has featured so prominently publicly. He prevented them from closing that investigation. And then James Comey went –as described by Sally Yates — rogue. And sent in these investigators to see if they could get him to trip a wire, which he did.

But this has been a really outrageous and in my view abusive case from the beginning. It’s important to note that those investigators that he was charged with lying to said that they didn’t think he intentionally lied to him. When the interview began, he said, “Well, you all have the transcript of my conversation with the diplomats.” And they did. And they said that they didn’t think he intentionally lied. But he fought the charges. And what Mueller’s people did is, first of all, there weren’t any charges. And Mueller came in and they resuscitated the charges. And they pummeled this guy — drained him of his money, then threatened his son with prosecution. And he finally pled guilty to end it. So it’s just been an outrageous case from the beginning.

(…)

There’s no one in this case that has alleged that General Flynn has withheld evidence against President Trump. He was convicted of making these statements that were viewed as false about his conversations with diplomats. There was nothing criminal in those conversations with Russian diplomats, and there is notes released later that suggest Comey told President Obama and then Vice President Joe Biden that the calls appeared, quote, “legit.” And they were — there was nothing untoward or even uncommon in a national security advisor, weeks before the entry of an administration, to reach out to the diplomats from countries like Russia. There was nothing uncommon — nothing illegal — in those communications.

(…)

7:06 a.m.

GREGG JARRETT, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: They hid and concealed that exculpatory evidence of his innocence, and they falsely accused and wrongfully prosecuted an innocent man, so, you know, I know that Michael Flynn didn’t want a pardon — he wanted to be exonerated in court, but, at this point, with a change in administrations appearing likely, he’ll take it.

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