News & Politics

FLASHBACK: Barack Obama Pardoned a Former General Who Lied to the FBI

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2017 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. Former President Barack Obama will speak Monday, April 24, 2017, in Chicago with young community leaders and organizers in an event at the University of Chicago, where his presidential library is planned. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

In a leaked phone conversation recording with former members of his administration released last week, Barack Obama claimed that the “rule of law is at risk”  because of the “unprecedented” move by the Justice Department to drop charges against Michael Flynn, who was the victim of a perjury trap set up by officials in the FBI. Flynn was coerced into pleading guilty to lying to FBI officials.

“The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said. “And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”

But, in 2017, just days before leaving office, Barack Obama pardoned retired Marine Corps general James E. Cartwright, who pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI.

Cartwright served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Obama, and was “a key member of Mr. Obama’s national security team in his first term and earned a reputation as the president’s favorite general,” according to the New York Times. Cartwright had leaked classified information regarding Iran’s nuclear program to the media and lied to FBI officials investigating those leaks. He faced up to two years in prison before Obama pardoned him.

General Cartwright left government in 2011. The leak investigation that ensnared him began in June 2012, when David E. Sanger, a reporter for The New York Times, published a book, “Confront and Conceal,” and an article in The Times that described Operation Olympic Games, an American-Israeli covert effort to sabotage Iranian nuclear centrifuges with a computer virus. F.B.I. agents came to believe that General Cartwright had also been a source for a February 2012 Newsweek article that discussed cyberattacks against Iran.

But when F.B.I. agents interviewed the retired general about the book and articles, he initially lied about his discussions with the journalists, according to a government sentencing memo.

The memo said the agents showed the general emails that contradicted his account, and he passed out and was hospitalized. Several days later, when the interview resumed, he changed his account of the discussions.

Obama reportedly based his decision to pardon the former general on Cartwright’s “description of his motive, as well as because of a letter by Mr. Sanger saying that he had already learned about the program before speaking to the general and that the conversation with the general informed his thinking about which information to withhold.”

Cartwright had only pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI, not to disclosing classified information.

General Flynn’s case, however, was dropped following revelations that Obama officials in the FBI had set up a perjury trap for him in order to get him fired as a Trump adviser. Obama officials also withheld exculpatory evidence, launched and carried out a bogus investigation over claims of Russian collusion of where there was no empirical evidence.

But, according to Obama, dropping the case against Flynn (who was the victim of entrapment and was pressured into pleading guilty) was an  “unprecedented” move that put the rule of law is “at risk.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis