Incomplete(?) Files Released by Mueller Confirm FBI Agents Did Not Think Flynn Lied
Pursuant to a federal judge's request, special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday released key documents related to the FBI’s questioning of former national security adviser Michael Flynn ahead of his sentencing on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan made the request on Thursday after a sentencing memo filed by Flynn's defense team on Tuesday suggested he had been the victim of a perjury trap set up by the FBI in his January 2017 interview.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador late last year.
In the court filing, Flynn's lawyers noted that he was interviewed without a lawyer present and was not told in advance that lying to the FBI was a crime. The memo also revealed that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe suggested that Flynn not have a lawyer present for his interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka.
The documents released on Friday confirm those claims. The 302 report also confirms that Strzok and Pientka “both had the impression at the time that Flynn was not lying or did not think he was lying.”
The agents' impression that Flynn was not lying does not square with what fired FBI Director James Comey told House investigators during the closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees last Friday. Comey recalled that "the conclusion of the investigators was he was obviously lying, but they saw none of the normal common indicia of deception: that is, hesitancy to answer, shifting in seat, sweating, all the things that you might associate with someone who is conscious and manifesting that they are being — they’re telling falsehoods. There’s no doubt he was lying, but that those indicators weren’t there.”
The special counsel argued in its filing Friday afternoon that "nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI."
Yet the documents show that the decision to interview Flynn in early 2017 about contacts with the Russian ambassador was controversial within the Justice Department.
One FBI document said then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates “was not happy” when then-FBI Director James Comey informed her that the FBI planned to talk to Flynn. The report also said several unnamed people back at FBI headquarters “later argued about the FBI’s decision to interview Flynn.”
It is easy to see why. There was nothing illegal about his phone conversation with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, yet his identity in the wiretapped communication was unmasked, and the conversation leaked to the media. Then FBI agents, who already knew the answers because they'd read the transcript, rushed to the White House to ask questions about a perfectly legitimate phone call. What was the point, other than to set him up?