The judge overseeing former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s criminal case asked whether he should issue an order holding the onetime Trump administration official in contempt for perjury.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a one-page order on Wednesday asking for legal briefs to be submitted on whether Flynn should be held in contempt.
He also appointed retired federal judge John Gleeson as a friend-of-the-court to argue in opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss Flynn’s case.
Before he was a judge, Gleeson served as a federal prosecutor and won the conviction of organized crime's Teflon Don, mobster John Gotti.
It’s unusual for a judge to bring third parties into a criminal case and sets back the Justice Department’s and President Donald Trump’s efforts to quickly drop the prosecution of Flynn.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the Flynn prosecution which was a part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In moving to dismiss its own case last week, the U.S. said an internal review found that Flynn’s false statements to agents of the FBI weren’t “material” to the Russia probe.
On Monday, more than 2,000 former department officials who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations called for Attorney General William Barr to resign, saying his conduct in the Flynn case was an assault on the rule of law. They urged the judge “to closely examine the department’s stated rationale for dismissing the charges -- including holding an evidentiary hearing with witnesses -- and to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.”
For his part, Barr has questioned events at the core of the case against Flynn -- his interactions with a Russian ambassador. Barr said he felt those conversations were within the scope of Flynn's duties during the transition from one White House administration to the next.
Flynn was fired in 2017 for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with that ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, Trump said at the time.
The Justice Department last week moved to drop the criminal case against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those Kislyak contacts.
Trump administration contacts with Russian officials were at the heart of the Justice Department probe into alleged Kremlin interference in the 2016 elections. Broadly speaking, Trump has frequently branded the entire investigation a hoax and an act of partisan corruption.