WASHINGTON -- Attorney General William Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter.
Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national security cases in the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, the people said. The team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the U.S. attorney in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, who is handling the Flynn matter, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen.
Over the past two weeks, the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases -- some public, some not -- including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them, according to the people. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive internal deliberations.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The moves follow Barr's recent installation of a close aide, Timothy Shea, as interim U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia taking the place of the former top prosecutor in the office, Jessie Liu.
Trump had nominated Liu for a top Treasury Department position in December, and she initially told her colleagues that she would stay on until her confirmation. But Barr then asked her to leave early, and she was given a temporary role at the Treasury Department, clearing the way for him to install Shea.
Barr's move on the Flynn case also comes after the attorney general intervened this week to reduce his department's recommended jail time for Roger Stone, a Trump associate who the president said has been treated unfairly, and announced a special legal channel for Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to report his findings on Ukraine.
Flynn, who stepped down after less than a month as national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russia's ambassador. He's since accused prosecutors of "egregious misconduct" and sought to have the charges dismissed. A judge has rejected those accusations.
Flynn then asked to withdraw his guilty plea, which he entered in December 2017.
Flynn's case was first brought by the special counsel's office, which agreed to a plea deal on a charge of lying to investigators in exchange for his cooperation. The Washington office took over the case when the special counsel shut down after concluding its investigation into Russia's election interference.
Barr on Thursday gave an interview in which he publicly called on Trump to stop commenting on the Justice Department, saying it was making it impossible for him to do his job. But Trump said Friday that he had every right to tell the Justice Department what to do in criminal cases.
Barr and Trump have rejected accusations that they are politicizing the Justice Department.
Information for this article was contributed by Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times; and by Chris Strohm, Laura Litvan and Elizabeth Wasserman of Bloomberg News.
A Section on 02/15/2020
Print Headline: Barr installs outside prosecutors