JUNEAU — Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has signed on to a letter asking federal Judge Emmet Sullivan to stop the prosecution of Michael Flynn, a former aide to President Donald Trump.
Clarkson’s name was among those of 15 state attorneys general and deputy attorneys general, all Republicans, who signed an amicus brief asking Sullivan to approve a request by federal prosecutors seeking to drop their case against Flynn.
“It just struck me as an important separation of powers issue,” Clarkson said.
He said he was asked by Ohio’s attorney general to sign the document, an act that doesn’t require state lawyers to join the case. He said Gov. Mike Dunleavy was not involved in the decision.
Flynn worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign for president and became the president’s first national security adviser after his election. During the FBI’s investigation into possible Russian influence in the presidential election, Flynn lied to the FBI, court documents say. In 2017, Flynn reached a plea deal with prosecutors. In exchange for pleading guilty to one count of perjury, other charges were dropped.
Flynn later asked the judge to withdraw his guilty plea. Last week, the Justice Department said it was dropping its case against Flynn, reversing years of statements by the department about Flynn’s guilt.
Documents relating to that decision were signed by a Justice Department official with close ties to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, not prosecutors who worked on the case. That prompted speculation that Barr was dropping the case at the request of the president, a claim Barr denies.
Former President Barack Obama said the decision puts the rule of law at risk, and Karen Loeffler, former U.S. Attorney for Alaska, was among hundreds of former federal prosecutors who signed a competing letter urging Sullivan to keep the case alive.
Sullivan is now considering whether to accept prosecutors’ request to drop the case, and Clarkson said he should.
“The discretion to decide what cases to prosecute or in this case not prosecute is a power that belongs exclusively to the executive branch,” Alaska’s attorney general said.
Sullivan’s reluctance to end the prosecution creates a separation of powers issue, Clarkson said. The judiciary doesn’t have the power of prosecution, he said. Clarkson said he isn’t aware of any other cases similar to the one facing Sullivan, and because it’s “highly public,” he’s aware of a problem.
“There isn’t a Democratic AG on that brief, but there should be,” Clarkson said. “It may look political, but that’s not my point,” he said.
Clarkson said the state is frequently asked by other attorneys general to join similar briefs, but it doesn’t accept all of those invitations. The state recently joined one asking the president to hold China accountable for the spread of coronavirus.
[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]