Donald Trump is reportedly planning to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Axios and The New York Times have reported that the planned pardon is among a number under consideration by the Republican president.
Mr Trump could still change his mind – but if he does grant a reprieve to Flynn, it would be the highest-profile pardon issued by the president since he took office.
Image: Mr Trump and Mr Flynn on the campaign trail in September 2016
Democrat Joe Biden defeated Mr Trump in elections earlier this month, but the president has refused to formally concede, alleging without evidence that there was widespread voter fraud.
However, on Monday he gave the go-ahead for federal funds to start flowing to Mr Biden so he can carry out his transition duties before his 20 January inauguration.
Flynn, a retired Army general, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about interactions he had with Russia’s ambassador to the US in the weeks before Mr Trump took office.
He has since sought to withdraw the plea, arguing prosecutors violated his rights and duped him into a plea agreement.
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Flynn was one of several former Trump aides to plead guilty or be convicted at trial in former Special Counsel RobertMueller’s investigation into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election to boost Mr Trump’s candidacy.
Image: George Papadopoulos was jailed for 14 days in 2018
Mr Trump in March said he was strongly considering a full pardon for Flynn. He said the FBI and Justice Department had “destroyed” Flynn’s life and that of his family.
The president has always claimed that he and his campaign team were illegally targeted.
Other members of the team he may consider for a pardon include George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort.
Image: January 2017: Mr Trump in the Oval Office with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn
In 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts in 2016 relating to US-Russia relations before the election.
Manafort was convicted in 2018 of hiding millions of dollars of income earned from political consulting in Ukraine.
The pardon power, which comes from the US Constitution, is one of the broadest available to a president.
In 2018, Mr Trump even said he had the “absolute right” to pardon himself – a claim many constitutional law scholars dispute.
But he could try to pardon himself pre-emptively to cover the possibility of prosecution after he leaves office in January.
There has also been speculation that the president would pre-emptively pardon his personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Mr Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings in Ukraine.
Source : Sky News