Newly unredacted portions of the House Intelligence Committee Republican report on the Trump-Russia investigation resolve the discrepancy between what fired FBI director James Comey and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Republicans have been saying about the Michael Flynn investigation. Not to put too fine a point on it, but one party should probably read the transcript before he does any more media interviews while on his book tour.
As PJ Media reported earlier this week, Republicans have long been alleging that when Comey went to Capitol Hill in March of 2017 to brief lawmakers on the Russia investigation, he told them that the agents who questioned Flynn did not believe he had lied.
Comey, on the other hand, has been insisting in numerous interviews that he said no such thing.
For instance, Fox News’ Bret Baier asked Comey about the issue during an interview last week:
“Did you tell lawmakers that FBI agents didn’t believe former national security adviser Michael Flynn was lying intentionally to investigators?” asked Baier.
“No,” said Comey.
“You did not—” said Baier.
“And I saw that in the media,” Comey said. “I don’t know what — maybe someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that and didn’t say that.”
But according to the briefing transcript, Comey did tell members that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn “saw nothing that indicated to them that [Flynn] knew he was lying to them.”
Then-deputy director Andrew McCabe also said FBI agents saw no signs of deception in Flynn, but he called the case a “conundrum,” because Flynn’s statements didn’t quite match up with what the FBI knew he said in a wiretapped conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.
Keep in mind that Flynn had no reason to lie. Nothing he said in his conversation with the Russian ambassador was illegal.
According to the unredacted report: “Director Comey testified to the committee that ‘the agents…discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them.'”
It goes on: McCabe “confirmed the interviewing agent’s initial impression and stated that the ‘conundrum that we faced on their return from the interview is that although [the agents] didn’t detect deception in the statements that he made in the interview … the statements were inconsistent with our understanding of the conversation that he had actually had with the ambassador.'”
McCabe also told the committee: “The two people who interviewed [Flynn] didn’t think he was lying, [which] was not [a] great beginning of a false statement case.”
In late November 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, stunning lawmakers who had attended the Comey briefing and believed that Flynn would not be charged.
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York writes that “the newly released portions do not resolve all the questions about the Comey-Flynn episode.”
Did Comey think that the agents were wrong, and that their normal practices to detect deception had just not worked with Flynn, and that Flynn was in fact lying? Did Comey believe that Flynn had honestly forgotten some of the things the agents asked about? Was there some other explanation?
Perhaps they were covering for Comey? And perhaps the idea that Mueller’s ruthless team forced an innocent man to plead guilty rather than endure a long, drawn-out court battle and further financial ruin is not the type of narrative the heroic “Resistance” movement wants out there?
There could be no reason other than shame and embarrassment for the intelligence community to have redacted those portions of the report.