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Judge tosses Flynn’s business partner conviction for lying to the FBI

A federal judge has thrown out the conviction of a former business partner of President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, in a case that highlighted an unusual partnership that allowed Flynn to profit from talking with Russia in 2017 before the inauguration.

“The government failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” wrote U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in his ruling Monday.

The case, which was delayed for more than a year while Flynn prepared to testify for the special counsel’s office on whether President Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation, and possibly related matters, was important for Trump because it may have rendered moot the question of whether he attempted to obstruct justice by trying to fire then-FBI Director James B. Comey. That question also was a subject of Flynn’s guilty plea and was at the heart of his Russia lobbying.

The guilty plea Flynn accepted and the conduct that transpired with his business partner, Bijan Rafiekian, came about as an issue of “national importance,” wrote Sullivan, a former United States attorney in Manhattan.

The judge described the case as “highly unusual” and “emblematic of the threats to our democracy that await our neglect of the checks and balances and the fundamental constitutional principles that we have inherited from our forebears,” saying the case was important to the world because of the Russian interference with the 2016 election and the willingness of the United States to bargain with Russia.

“It has, in other words, impacted the fundamental democratic values of our nation,” Sullivan wrote.

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Dubelier, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.