Justice Department Drops Prosecution in Trump presidential Campaign Foreign Influence Case

The U.S. Justice Department has decided to abandon one of the last remaining prosecutions connected to investigations into alleged foreign influence over Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. This development came to light in a court filing made on a Monday, where prosecutors indicated their decision to halt their pursuit of a conviction against Bijan Rafiekian, a California businessman and former business partner of Michael Flynn, a prominent ally of Donald Trump. Rafiekian had been charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey during Trump’s successful White House campaign seven years ago.

The decision marks a significant turn of events in a case that has seen its fair share of twists and turns. Initially, Rafiekian was found guilty on two felony charges related to his alleged involvement as an unregistered foreign agent. However, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga, who presided over the trial, later came to believe that the guilty verdicts were not supported by sufficient evidence. Consequently, he set aside these verdicts, leading to years of legal battles, including appeals to the 4th Circuit Court.

The recent decision by the Justice Department to drop the case was succinct and did not provide extensive insight into their rationale. However, it did mention that the Fourth Circuit’s recent stance played a role in their decision, stating that “the United States believes it is not in the public interest to pursue the case against defendant Bijan Rafiekian further.”

Rafiekian’s legal team welcomed the decision but expressed regret over the years their client spent grappling with the case. Defense lawyer Mark MacDougall remarked, “The Justice Department has finally conceded that this case should never have been indicted.” He added that Rafiekian had endured baseless federal prosecution over the past five years, primarily because of his association with Michael Flynn.

The legal saga surrounding Rafiekian also serves as a noteworthy illustration of the challenges and complexities faced during the Trump administration. Initially, Flynn had agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and pleaded guilty to a single false-statement charge. However, just before Rafiekian’s trial, a dispute arose between prosecutors and Flynn’s new legal team, leading to Flynn being dropped as a witness and declared a co-conspirator.

Ultimately, Attorney General Bill Barr moved to drop the prosecution of Flynn, citing prosecutorial misconduct. Flynn was later pardoned by President Trump, absolving him of criminal liability related to the pro-Turkey project and other matters. However, no such pardon was extended to Rafiekian, who continued to face legal proceedings until the recent decision to drop the case.

In the latest filing, prosecutors have requested that the case against Rafiekian be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning it cannot be refiled. This dismissal is subject to approval by Judge Trenga, but such motions are typically granted.

It’s worth noting that technically, the foreign-agent case brought in 2018 will remain open even after the charges against Rafiekian are dropped. Another individual, Turkish native Ekim Alptekin, was indicted alongside Rafiekian and accused of using a shell company to act as an intermediary for the Turkish government. However, Alptekin has maintained his innocence and has not come to the U.S. to face the charges, depicting the case as a form of persecution on social media.

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