Attorney General Barr says what Michael Flynn did "was not a crime"

DOJ drops charges against Michael Flynn

Attorney General William Barr defended the Justice Department's decision to seek a dismissal of its criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump's first national security adviser who admitted to lying to federal investigators. 

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. The case against Flynn stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the election. 

In December 2016, President Obama imposed sanctions against Russia in retaliation for its meddling in the election. Soon after the sanctions were announced, the Washington Post reported that Flynn called Kislyak several times in December. Flynn initially denied that he had discussed the sanctions in his conversations with Kislyak. But later, in his guilty plea, Flynn admitted that he had in fact spoken with Kislyak about the sanctions and had asked that Russia "not escalate the situation and only respond to the U.S. sanctions in a reciprocal manner."

In January, Flynn asked the court to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea, citing the government's "bad faith, vindictiveness and breach of the plea agreement." Flynn also accused federal prosecutors of refusing to comply with legal and ethical obligations.

The former national security adviser was set to be sentenced in February, but the hearing was canceled.

In an exclusive interview with CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge, Barr dismissed the notion from critics that he is doing the bidding of Mr. Trump.

Read Herridge's interview with Barr below and watch "Evening News with Norah O'Donnell," "CBS This Morning," and CBSN to see more of the interview. CBSNews.com will feature more extended excerpts of the interview, as well as the full transcript.

Catherine Herridge: The last thing most Americans remember about General Flynn is that he was fired. And that he admitted lying to the FBI. Does the fact remain that he lied?

Attorney General William Barr: Well, you know, people sometimes plead to things that turn out not to be crimes. ... And the Department of Justice is not persuaded that this was material to any legitimate counterintelligence investigation. So it was not a crime.

When a special counsel report was released last year, you were accused by critics of putting your thumb on the scale in the president's favor. Are you doing the president's bidding in General Flynn's case?

No, I'm doing the law's bidding. I'm doing my duty under the law, as I see it.

You know you're going to take a lot of incoming ... for this decision. Are you prepared for that?

Yea, I'm prepared for that. I also think it's sad that nowadays these partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice.

What should Americans take away from your actions in the Flynn case today?

I was concerned people were feeling there were two standards of justice in this country. ... I wanted to make sure that we restore confidence in the system. There's only one standard of justice.