A federal appeals court in Washington ordered a lower-court judge to dismiss the case against former national security Michael Flynn on Wednesday.

That ruling followed earlier arguments by Flynn's attorneys that the matter had become moot after both they and the Justice Department asked for the case to be dropped.

Judge Emmet Sullivan had paused resolving Flynn's case and began a process to find out more about the Justice Department's decision to withdraw its charges, even after Flynn's admissions and pleas of guilt.

By a vote of 2 to 1, the three-judge panel on the appeals court ruled Wednesday that the lower-court judge, Sullivan, had intruded on the Justice Department's "charging authority" by seeking further investigation after the department moved to dismiss Flynn's case.

An attorney appointed by Sullivan to counsel him about the government's decision in the case called the move to dismiss an abuse of power by the Justice Department because it was interceding in the case of a friend of President Trump. Outside critics also have faulted Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department.

But Trump, Barr and Republicans have cited what they call the importance of new evidence in Flynn's case. And the appeals court said on Wednesday that the executive branch enjoys the privilege to keep confidential the decisions it makes about charging and other aspects of a criminal case.

"In this case, the district court's actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the executive branch's exclusive prosecutorial power," the judges wrote. "The contemplated proceedings would likely require the executive to reveal the internal deliberative process behind its exercise of prosecutorial discretion, interfering with the Article II charging authority."

It wasn't immediately clear what next steps were available to Sullivan or whether the appeals court decision finally ends Flynn's years-long legal odyssey, which has cut a slow and serpentine path for almost the entire Trump administration.

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