The Department of Justice last week dropped charges against President Trump’s first national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, announcing “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice.” The case has been dragging on since before Trump’s inauguration, with ever-increasing criticism of the FBI’s role in the original investigation.
The Associated Press opined on May 7 that “the action was a stunning reversal for one of the signature cases brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It comes even though prosecutors for the past three years have maintained that Flynn lied to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.”
The reason the charges were dropped appears to be due to the aggressive legal representation of Flynn’s lawyer, Sydney Powell, who obtained new FBI documents showing troubling activities by senior-level FBI and DOJ personnel involved in the investigation. A striking discovery is the hand-written notation, likely written by the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence, Bill Priestep, “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him (Flynn) to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” That notation was apparently penned when the DOJ was close to first dropping charges against Flynn early in 2017.
Attorney General William Barr told CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge in an interview aired May 8 that he believes the FBI planned a perjury trap when two agents interviewed Flynn in the White House. Their intention was to find evidence they could use to warrant continuation of a counterintelligence operation against Flynn that was going to end in January 2017. Barr tells Herridge the effort to extend the counterintelligence investigation “came from the seventh floor,” meaning FBI Director James Comey and his assistant Andrew McCabe were involved.
Other FBI/DOJ documents released last week also make it clear that Peter Strzok, who under standard procedure would not have drafted the after-interview FD-302 Forms following their meeting with Flynn, spent weeks drafting them and coordinated the drafting with DOJ lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was intimately involved. Standard procedure for preparation of FD-302 forms calls for them to be completed in five days and not in coordination with personnel not present at the interview.
The decision to drop charges against Flynn, and the publication of hitherto-unseen FBI internal communications, continue a long and unsavory story of FBI efforts to overthrow the Trump administration. It is part of a story I have written about on four previous occasions in these pages. It has long been clear that someone in the bureau had taken matters into their own hands and set out to fabricate a story of collusion with the Russians. Too many parts of the story were far-fetched: the use of the Steele Dossier, the effort to entrap Carter Page and others who were bit players, the “bugging” of the president-elect’s offices in Trump Towers, the attempt to block release of documents from the FBI and DOJ, the two-year Mueller investigation that sputtered out – it all looked too plainly like an operation by rogue actors, abetted by partisan journalists and dishonesty on the part of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
We may never know the full extent of malfeasance by “the seventh floor” of the FBI. It is abundantly clear, though, that senior members of the bureau took power into their own hands; power they were not authorized or entitled to. We must now await the report from U.S. Attorney John Durham, months away, on the origins of the Russian investigation. Perhaps we will finally learn who all was involved and see some of them brought to justice. And hopefully, the FBI can redeem itself.
Fred LaSor retired from the American foreign service in 1977 and now lives in the Carson Valley.
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