Judge Emmet Sullivan said that third parties may be able to file "friend of the court" briefs on the case, an extraordinary development for criminal proceedings and a development that is likely to delay a ruling on the request to dismiss the case.
Sullivan made the announcement in a somewhat cryptic order five days after the Justice Department's amazing inquiry.
His direction to consider more votes means that Sullivan is unwilling to dismiss the case and may want to make more facts about what happened to it, especially after the Justice Department's rough face on Flynn last week triggered a stream of criticism from previous prosecutors , defense attorneys, and even witnesses who claimed Attorney General William Barr had interfered with President Donald Trump's political wishes.
Tuesday's development keeps the case alive in a way that could create even more fireworks and potentially allow people with "unique information or perspective" or other reasons to speak up, such as Mueller's former office and former Justice Department leadership, if they wanted to.
CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, a former New York prosecuting attorney, said that for him, the order signaled Sullivan "has real issues and is not ready to sign for a termination. It's a very unusual step for a district judge."
"This justice has already consumed three or more years of the life of an innocent man – and his entire family," Flyn's lawyers wrote. "No further delay shall be tolerated or additional expenses incurred by him and his defense."
Flyn's defense attorneys acknowledged that former Watergate prosecutors had sought to be heard in the case.
"There are countless people – including former prosecutors on both sides of the party – who want to make a statement," Flyn's lawyers wrote, "but there are many reasons why there is no provision for outsiders to join a criminal case in this court. . "
Sullivan previously accepted Flynn's sworn admission that he was guilty of lying to the FBI. The judge has been unpredictable and harsh on Flynn for misleading the administration and the FBI while serving as Trump's first national security adviser. After nearly two years of working with special counsel Robert Mueller and other federal investigations into his guilty plea, Flynn claimed he had been set up by prosecutors and tried to get out of conviction as the sentencing approach approached.
Barr's political appointees revealed last week that they were convinced by internal FBI documents that Flynn should not face a criminal relationship because he should not have been investigated.
Several key former officials in the Department of Justice have complained in newspaper updates and open letters about the move to dismiss the charge against Flynn. They have alleged that Barr dropped the case for political reasons, allowing the president and his supporters to undermine Russia investigation in an election year. Many attacked the US Attorney's legal brief with arguments to dismiss the case because of what they called twisted, thin, or for defense-friendly grounds.
Barr has said there was no political influence in the decision, saying the case was dropped because the lies Flynn was accused of telling investigators were not "material" or influential for an investigation.
"Given the current stance on this case, the court expects individuals and organizations to seek leave from the court to file amicus curiae," Sullivan wrote Tuesday.
It is not yet clear whether Sullivan will allow threats from former prosecutors, or witnesses such as former DOJ National Security Chief Mary McCord and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, whose account of incidents the Department of Justice had relied on in its summary. McCord wrote Sunday that investigators' statements had been misconstrued.
Sullivan said he will provide more guidance on how third parties can submit their briefs to the court about the case "at the right time." Two filings came into the case this week from unknown parties under seal, according to court records.
This story and headline has been updated with additional information about the case.