June 24, 2020 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

Forum: For my friends, everything. For my enemies, the law

Michael Flynn appears to be off the hook finally. An appeals court forced a trial judge to dismiss the government’s case against him after the government changed its mind. What we are seeing, I think, is a harbinger of things to come. What we are seeing is a demonstration of that old saying familiar to…

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Michael Flynn appears to be off the hook finally.

An appeals court forced a trial judge to dismiss the government’s case against him after the government changed its mind. What we are seeing, I think, is a harbinger of things to come. What we are seeing is a demonstration of that old saying familiar to Latin American dictators of yore: For my friends, everything. For my enemies, the law.

Flynn was facing prosecution after being charged in connection with the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian interference. Flynn’s case was long a thorn in the president’s side. Eventually, Bill Barr, the US Attorney General, decided against going to trial, a move so highly usual it was widely regarded as a sop to Donald Trump.

The trial judge, Emmet Sullivan, said hold your horses. He hired another judge to review Flynn’s case independently. Meanwhile, the case was pending. The Justice Department appealed to a higher court featuring the recently confirmed federal Judge Neomi Rao, who owes her new job to the president. Rao said Sullivan had overstepped his bounds, but the appeals court’s dissenting judge said he did no such thing.

I’m no lawyer but I’m also no fool. The president fired James Comey over Flynn. Bill Barr was ready to move. The judge said wait a minute. Barr said no, I won’t wait, and got a friendly judge to help clear Flynn before the case got attention. That’s pretty much a textbook example of the fix being in, and good illustration, though a small one, of the potential for corruption among the 200 federal judges confirmed under Trump.

We are seeing the makings of a judicial system in which equal protection is a ruse, Republican friends get what they want, and Republican enemies get the law. Our problems are much deeper than Trump, yet no one really knows what to do.

As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. henry sholar on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Might there be an “en banc” proceeding called, and have Rao (a)shamed and reversed? Also a piece of evidence for her impeachment by the House, conviction by the Senate under a Biden administration?

  2. realsaramerica on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Have we ever really been a country of equal justice under law? While that has been our stated ideal, I learned from experience that “justice” in our country has primarily been for those who can afford it. Trump has taken what was already wrong and pushed it to the extreme.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

      Well said and well taken.

    • Lily Crowell on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

      I absolutely agree with this. Nothing about the result of the Flynn ordeal surprises me because the notion of “for my friends, everything” and “for my enemies, the law” is not a new phenomenon. Everything connected to Trump and the Mueller Report is in the spotlight; the idea of a fraudulent justice system is not new, the country just hasn’t focused on it in the past.

      • Eleanor Van Evera on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

        I second this as well. And, while it is frightening to see leaders like Trump and Barr who are so brazen about obstructing justice, I do hold onto hope that these sorts of actions may serve as a wake up call for the left of just how frequently these negotiations have taken place in the past, just behind closed doors. There is a chance that this behavior could finally lead to real conversation and action re. limiting corruption throughout the justice system.

  3. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Neomi Rao’s statement was particularly egregious. She basically said that “new evidence” had essentially exonerated Flynn while claiming the DOJ’s position to drop the charges agreed with Flynn’s own position! So yes, we’re definitely getting banana republic justice under the “leadership” of Covered Bill.

  4. Mo'ath on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    These judicial maneuvers, replacements and so forth are an imminent threat to the reputation and trust in the judicial system. A lot of the politically and socially contentious issues are resolved through the judicial system.So if people perceive courts as corrupt and unjust it is only a matter of time until things get out of hand and chaos takes over. If such violations keep happenings, God knows if people are going to accept any rulings over national matters such as the elections.

  5. Ben Dachman on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    This case is a perfect encapsulation of every authoritarian impulse our current president embodies. He purports to support “law and order” but constantly violates the law for his own personal benefit—emboldened by his minions who do his bidding to a T. Remember when he said “rats (suspects who ostensibly comply with law enforcement in ongoing investigations) should be prosecuted.” He said that because he views the legal system as his personal mechanism for gaining publicity, exploiting his opponents, and broadcasting vendettas against anyone in his crosshairs. In Trump’s view, the justice system is a mere toy for his own benefit. Trump is just a mafia-like authoritarian strong man who justifies his actions by cloaking them beneath the banner “law and order.” He’s just a mob boss + a thinly veiled effort to act as a cop at the same time. The fact that his own supporters don’t realize that just shows how a potent his cultish-following really is.

  6. Meg Alberding on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    These events put actions behind what Trump has always stood for during his presidency. He is filled with pride for an “America” that isn’t really America, it is a group of people paralyzed in the wake of his power that he knows are easily manipulated. This is true for both politicians and citizens alike, and is exemplified in many ways other than in the judicial branch. However, in this case it is setting a precedent, in an area of our government that has been riddled with controversy in the past, that inequality in justice is still ok. This could prove to be especially relevant in the upcoming election, as the period from November – January if Trump were to lose could be tumultuous due to his extreme nationalism.

  7. Indigo Pellegrini de Paur on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    I’m glad you brought this up today because it is a piece of news that I otherwise might have ignored given everything else going on. But I’ll be honest: even after reading a few articles on it, I still am having trouble grasping the legal definitions and magnitude. I have so many questions. Is all I need to understand that Flynn is off the hook because of inner-dealings within those circles? Is the legal terminology semantics? Or must I understand what a writ of mandamus is? Are these insider decisions a phenomenon in Washington that arrived when Trump did? Or are they old and just now, like so many other things, becoming more blatant? Further, Is this “unjust” decision to dismiss the case a product of Trump? Or a product of a legal system that favors those supported by people in power?

    So many questions, so little time before sh*t hits the fan on something else. Absolute chaos these past three and a half years.

  8. Sebastian Kulkarni on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    I think the result of this case highlights the quality of Trumps character and the authoritarian power he has in the nation. The result of Michael Flynn’s case is unsurprising and the justice system in the United States has been flawed and unjust for decades. The only way to stop corruption in the justice system is to discuss a way forward and use action which will help provide solidarity throughout the nation.

  9. Michael F on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    John, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do anymore. It’s hard to see a way forward through reform. The infection has festered for too long, and the only solution I can see it to take the arm and save the body. But how do we go about political revolution without seeming somewhat authoritarian? How do we hold those accountable for the injustices committed? For me, I can’t help but think of the French Revolution.

  10. Bruce Knecht on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Apparently, a third verdict has now been added to the standard alternatives of guilty and not guilty. The new verdict? Guilty, but an ally of President Trump.
    This breathtaking position can be stated as a general proposition: a certain favored class of individuals is protected by the law, but not bound by the law. This statement perfectly encapsulates the legal philosophy which has underpinned every authoritarian system of law and government in human history.
    Obviously, it is a view that is antithetical to the letter and spirit of the American tradition of jurisprudence. The fundamental principle of the American justice system can be stated in two correlative propositions: everyone who is bound by the law must be protected by it; everyone who is protected by the law must be bound by it. For those who prefer the short version – no one is above(or beneath) the law.

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