On Wednesday, attorneys for Michael Flynn released documents revealing the FBI’s discussion about how to handle the interview with the disgraced General in the White House in January 2017. “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” says one of the notes handwritten by Bill Priestap, former counterintelligence director at the FBI. The notes also show that they expected Flynn to lie, and explored a possible strategy in case he had: “If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ & let them decide. Or, if he initially lies, then we present him (redacted) & he admits it, document for DOJ & let them decide how to address it.” These documents contain handwritten notes and email messages between the FBI officials.
This revelation came as a bombshell, prompting Flynn’s defense team to accuse the FBI of forcing the disgraced General to admit to crimes he didn’t commit and hiding exonerating evidence, according to USA Today. These claims were rejected by a federal judge. “So, the case has been a travesty of justice from the get-go, as the documents that have just come out explain and make clear. They were planning to set him up in some fashion,” said Sidney Powell in an interview with Fox News.
Within hours President Trump voiced his support for Michael Flynn on Twitter. “What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” Trump tweeted. The President also hinted that he might consider pardoning Flynn. Trump also blasted Comey and other “dirty, filthy cops at the top of the FBI,” who unfairly targeted his former aide. Vice President Mike Pence also weighed in that he was “very troubled” by released records.
Former Ambassador Nikki Haley expressed her concern during the interview with Fox News that the FBI needs to “step up” if they want American people to trust them. “This upsets me so much because when I was at the United Nations, this is what we looked at other countries doing … corrupt measures to frame people and to hide things,” said Haley to Laura Ingraham.
Several legal experts voiced doubts that these documents amount to full exoneration because they just show the standard practice of the FBI how they conduct its interviews and Flynn was treated the same way as others before him. “Law enforcement does this kind of thing on a routine basis. The only difference is it’s usually not with a powerful White House staffer,” said Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer.
Many liberal journalists also concluded that these newly emerged documents do not change the fact that Flynn did lie to the FBI and the investigators had already known well before the interview about his conversations with the former Russian Ambassador. All these documents “show is that officials debated how aggressively and on what grounds to confront Flynn about his Russia contacts,” said Aaron Rupar, a journalist from Vox. Barbara McQuade, a former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan penned an article in the Daily Beast on Friday, rejecting the claim for exoneration of Michael Flynn. She detailed that the notes do not “undermine confidence in Flynn’s guilty plea,” show entrapment or justify the withdrawal of the plea.
Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversation with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as part of Trump’s transition team after the 2016 election. According to the court documents, Flynn made false statements about contacting Kislyak and requesting Russia “to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia.” Another false statement was that Flynn asked the same Russian ambassador to oppose the Obama administration’s vote on Israel, according to CNN. When approached by two FBI agents in the White House in January 2017, Flynn denied that that these conversations had happened.