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In leaked call, Obama says 'rule of law at risk' in Flynn case

Obama reportedly made the comments after the justice department said it would drop the case against Michael Flynn [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]
Former president also reportedly slams White House response to coronavirus pandemic as 'an absolute chaotic disaster'.

Former United States President Barack Obama has reportedly said the "rule of law is at risk" in the US after the justice department said it would drop the legal case against Michael Flynn, a former White House national security adviser.

Flynn, a key target in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling the 2016 US election, pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI in relation to conversations with the Russian ambassador.

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Attorney General William Barr's declaration that there were never grounds to pursue Flynn and the FBI abused its powers drew fierce criticism from legal experts and civil society groups.

While President Donald Trump fired Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence, Trump frequently tweeted about the former general's case, which became a rallying cry for his supporters in attacking the FBI investigation. Trump recently declared Flynn "exonerated". On Friday, Yahoo News reported it obtained a tape of a web talk between the ex-president and members of the Obama Alumni Association.

"The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed - about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn," Obama reportedly 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."

2020 election

The former president, who misstated the charges against Flynn, discussed the case while stressing the importance of the upcoming presidential election, where his former vice president Joe Biden will challenge Trump.

"So I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do," he said. "Whenever I campaign, I've always said, 'Ah, this is the most important election.' Especially obviously when I was on the ballot, that always feels like it's the most important election. This one - I'm not on the ballot - but I am pretty darn invested. We got to make this happen," he was cited as saying.

Obama also reportedly slammed the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic as "an absolute chaotic disaster".

"This election that's coming up on every level is so important because what we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy - that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we're seeing that internationally as well.

"It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anaemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset - of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' - when that mindset is operationalised in our government.

"That's why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden," said Obama.

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