Attorney General William Barr has ordered a review by an outside prosecutor of the criminal case against President Donald Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who is awaiting sentencing for lying to FBI agents.
Barr — who has come under fire this week for easing career prosecutors' sentencing recommendation for Trump's friend Roger Stone — asked the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Jeffrey Jensen, to look into Flynn's interview by the FBI, which led to his prosecution in Washington, people familiar with the inquiry told NBC News.
The inquiry began within the past month, they said.
The New York Times reported earlier Friday that Barr had asked Jensen "to scrutinize" Flynn's case, a move that the newspaper noted was "highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors."
Flynn originally was charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked by the Justice Department with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller has since left that post, and Flynn's case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office for Washington, which is part of the Justice Department. Barr is the department's top official.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the review of Flynn's case.
Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about the nature of his discussions with Russia's ambassador to the United States in the weeks before Trump was inaugurated as president.
Four prosecutors who were involved in Stone's trial quit that case earlier this week after Barr ordered the softening of their recommendation to a judge that the Republican operative be sentenced to between seven and nine years in prison.
Stone was convicted last fall of lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election and witness tampering.
Both cases sprang from the Justice Department's investigation of Russia's efforts to boost Trump's candidacy and harm the presidential bid of Hillary Clinton.
And both of their cases are being handled by the U.S. Attorney in Washington.
Barr's former counselor, Timothy Shea, became DC's U.S. Attorney less than a month ago.