It may be overshadowed by everything else roiling the United States right now. But the 82-page legal brief filed Wednesday rebuking the Trump administration for its controversial motion to dismiss federal perjury charges against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn matters immensely for the future of American democracy. John Gleeson, a retired federal judge appointed to evaluate the government’s highly unusual move, argued that Justice Department prosecutors tried to conceal the real reasons for dropping the charges against Flynn last month and that its attempt to wipe Flynn’s record clean was a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power.”
There is even more to the argument, though, beyond abuses by the Justice Department under President Donald Trump. In fact, how the Flynn case is ultimately decided will determine how much the separation of powers still holds in America today, or whether the presidency under Trump is no longer bound by the Constitution, if the president can tell the courts what to do. The outcome of the case would then determine the future trajectory of creeping authoritarianism in the United States—something every diplomat in Washington and in allied countries abroad should be keeping a very close eye on.
With only five months to go before the 2020 presidential elections—and four months to the inevitable October surprise—look out for fresh warning signs of trouble in the U.S. that could affect international security. If past is at all precedent, missed signals can have hidden significance that result in tectonic global shifts.