By Jan Wolfe
(Reuters) - A retired judge blasted the U.S. Justice Department's plan to drop the criminal case against President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn as corrupt on Friday and urged the judge presiding over the case to reject the move.
John Gleeson, a former trial judge and prosecutor, was named by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to argue against the department's stance in the high-profile case in Washington. Critics have accused the department and Attorney General William Barr of going light on Flynn, a Trump ally who twice pleaded guilty in the case to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's former ambassador in Washington.
In a court filing, Gleeson said the department should not be allowed to drop the case. The department's effort to do so was a "corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system," Gleeson added.
The department unsuccessfully sought to force Sullivan to drop the charges, but an appeals court allowed the judge to consider the matter further.
Sidney Powell, a lawyer for Flynn, called Gleeson's filing a "smear" that ignored evidence that the Flynn prosecution "was corrupt from its inception."
Trump, who fired Flynn after just weeks as his national security adviser in 2017, has called the criminal case against his former aide unfair and has suggested he could pardon him.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office concerning U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia under President Barack Obama.
Flynn was charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump's candidacy.
While awaiting sentencing by Sullivan, Flynn sought to withdraw his guilty plea, switching lawyers to pursue an approach that accused the FBI of setting him up.
Democrats and other critics have called the Flynn case an example of Barr improperly meddling to help Trump's friends and political allies.
Flynn and Trump's administration have said Sullivan is required by law to grant the request for dismissal. The judge has said he is "not a rubber stamp" and wants to carefully scrutinize the Justice Department's request before deciding whether to grant it.
An appeals court on Aug. 31 denied Flynn's request to order Sullivan to end the case, saying the judge has the authority to appoint Gleeson and hear arguments. Sullivan could still dismiss the Flynn case, or could be ordered to do so by the appeals court.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Franklin Paul, Bill Berkrot and Will DUnham)