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Judge presiding over Michael Flynn case recuses himself — and no one knows why

The judge presiding over the Michael Flynn case recused himself this week, and no one knows why. (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

The federal judge presiding over the FBI's case against Michael Flynn recused himself from the case this week for unknown reasons.

What happened?

Judge Rudolph Contreras, who sits on the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and was appointed by former President Barack Obama, recused himself from the case on Thursday, court filings show, Politico reported.

Contreras was replaced by Judge Emmet Sullivan via random selection. Sullivan is an appointee of former President Bill Clinton and will now preside over the sentencing portion of the Flynn case.

Contreras had previously scheduled both sides to report back to him on the status of their agreement by Feb. 1, but with the justice change, it's not clear when the case will be resolved.

Why did Contreras step away from the case?

A spokesman for the U.S. District Court in D.C. told the Daily Caller that the court will not release the reason for the recusal, which is typical of a court.

"The court generally does not disclose reasons for recusal," Lisa Klem said.

Judges, in an effort to be as objective and unbiased as possible, have the power to recuse themselves from cases they are assigned. Typically, judges recuse themselves from a case because they have a previous — or current — interest in some aspect of the case being brought before them.

And while the court reserves the right to not publicize the reason for a recusal, Contreras' decision to step away from the case is surely raising eyebrows due to the politically charged, high-profile nature of the case.

What's even more interesting?

The Daily Caller reporter Chuck Ross noted that Contreras sits on the ultra-secret government Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which decides on requests to wiretap U.S. citizens and foreign spies. The court is specifically controversial because nearly all of its activity is highly classified. The court was the subject of controversy in 2013 after it was revealed it had been issuing general warrants to U.S. telecommunications companies for its metadata on an ongoing basis since 2006.

When Ross asked the court spokeswoman if Contreras' position on the FISC had anything to do with his recusal, she simply pointed him to her statement about recusals.

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