New unsealed documents in the Michael Flynn case show that FBI officials openly questioned whether their goal in interviewing the former Trump national-security adviser was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
Dated January 24, 2017, the same day of the White House interview with Flynn that was conducted by FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, the handwritten notes apparently reveal that at least one agent believed the purpose of the interview was to entrap Flynn — or he believed that was the goal of his fellow agents and was trying to push back on them in the name of institutional integrity.
As part of the Mueller probe, in December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty of lying to the Strzok and Pientka about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In January, Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he “never lied” to federal investigators.
The notes are part of four pages of documents that U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea handed over to Flynn’s lawyers on Wednesday, after they were uncovered by the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Missouri, who was tapped by attorney general William Barr in February to review the Justice Department’s handling of Flynn’s prosecution.
“I believe we should rethink this,” one note reads. “What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” another states. A further note raises the question that the Bureau could be “seen as playing games.”
While multiple sources have told news outlets the notes were written by Bill Priestap, the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence, Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell told Sean Hannity on Wednesday night that she was not certain of the identity. Powell called the notes “absolutely damning.”
“I interpret the notes as absolutely damning of their conduct and their plan,” Powell stated. “They rejected the advice of the apparent lawyer who wrote on the handwritten note that they not play games with the White House and instead that is exactly what they did.”
The unsealed documents also include emails sent ahead of the interview with Flynn, including an email from Strzok to former FBI general counsel James Baker that included a list of questions for then-deputy director Andrew McCabe to review before McCabe’s phone call to Flynn about the interview.
In other emails, dated January 23, 2017, Strzok’s FBI colleague Lisa Page — with whom he was having an affair — asks whether a “1001,” or a warning of making false statements to investigators, had to be given to Flynn during the interview, as is standard FBI procedure. “I don’t remember ever having to do this!” Page says in her question.
The same day that Strzok and Page exchanged those emails, the Washington Post cited unnamed FBI sources who said the Bureau had wiretapped Flynn’s calls with Kislyak and cleared him of any criminal conduct.
In December 2018, former FBI director James Comey admitted that the Flynn interview did not follow standard FBI procedures, saying it was “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more . . . organized administration.”
President Trump commented on the updates to the case in a Twitter tirade Thursday morning, saying “What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!”