Republicans will try to use the three-year Justice Department case against retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as an election cycle issue to motivate their base.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has crushed a once thriving economy under the Trump administration, Republicans see an opportunity to tell their constituents that the president and his allies were spied on by the previous administration. And according to this narrative, it was done with the help of an out-of-control FBI, intelligence community, and Obama-era holdovers who stayed in the federal government during Trump’s first term in office.
Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, was fired in February 2017 after a Washington Post column penned by David Ignatius suggested that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his discussions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak were intercepted by the federal government during the Obama administration, and he pleaded guilty to giving false statements to federal agents in 2017 regarding those calls with the Russian envoy. However, he filed to withdraw his guilty plea earlier this year after the Justice Department recently requested the judge issue a sentence of up to six months in prison.
As a result of a flood of declassified documents, along with Justice Department documents turned over to Flynn’s attorney Sydney Powell, questions have arisen in the minds of Trump supporters who see a justice system treating individuals associated with the 2016 Trump campaign and transition team in an unfair way, Republicans say.
“I think … there’s a constituency out there that cares a lot about it, and the Republican base voters, for example — they want to know that. They want transparency. They want to know what happened, and they want to know that the government’s not abusing its power,” South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune told the Washington Examiner.
“So I think there are questions that need to be answered. We’ll know more about their investigations. And then, we’ll see kind of where it goes. But yeah, there’s a pretty high-level interest among what I would call sort of high-interest voters,” he added.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis told the Washington Examiner that the Senate Judiciary Committee receiving more information about the Justice Department’s dismissal will lend more credence to its own investigations related to the Flynn case.
“I think there’s a lot of information coming out. It’s probably going to change people’s opinion about the overall investigation mania that we experienced over the last 3 1/2 years,” said Tillis, in the midst of a tough reelection fight for the Senate seat he won in 2014. “I think [the Flynn case] will be a minor part [of the election], but honestly, I believe that the economy and the COVID response are going to be the key factors in the race.”
However, Democrats dismissed any notion that Republicans using the Flynn case as a way to fire up their base this election cycle will be successful.
“At a time when we should be dealing with the pandemic, we have all these distractions. And it’s amazing to me that the president who fired Flynn now is saying he’s basically the greatest guy. It’s just one distraction after another from the president instead of taking responsibility for this pandemic,” Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono told the Washington Examiner.
“So I’m certainly not going to be supporting efforts to go after Hunter Biden and all these other distractions. I think it is a misuse of power to do those kinds of things rather than what we should be doing for the people,” she said.
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