Explosive new internal FBI documents unsealed Wednesday show that top bureau officials discussed their motivations for interviewing then-national security adviser Michael Flynn in the White House in January 2017 -- and openly indicated that their "goal" was "to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired."
The handwritten notes -- written by the FBI's former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap after a meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Fox News is told -- indicated that agents planned to get Flynn “to admit to breaking the Logan Act” and catch him in a lie. The Logan Act is an obscure statute that has never been used in a criminal prosecution; enacted in 1799, it was intended to prevent individuals from falsely claiming to represent the United States abroad in an era before telephones.
“What is our goal?" one of the notes reads. "Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
The bombshell documents strongly suggested the agents weren't truly concerned about Flynn's intercepted contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, except as a pretext. Former President Obama personally had warned the Trump administration against hiring Flynn, and made clear he was "not a fan," according to multiple officials. Obama fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.
The Justice Department turned over the documents just this week, even though a February 2018 standing order in the case required the government to turn over any exculpatory materials in its possession that pertained to Flynn. Fox News is told even more exculpatory documents are forthcoming.
Flynn previously charged that top FBI officials, including McCabe, pressed him not to have the White House counsel present during the questioning with two agents that ultimately led to his guilty plea on a single charge of lying to federal authorities. One of those agents was Peter Strzok, who has since been fired from the bureau after his anti-Trump text messages came to light.
Flynn has withdrawn his guilty plea and has been seeking exoneration, saying the FBI engaged in "egregious misconduct." Flynn, who now says he did not lie to the FBI, pleaded guilty in late 2017 as mounting legal fees pushed him to sell his home. Flynn has since obtained new counsel -- and his old attorneys, it emerged this week, then failed to turn over thousands of documents to his new lawyer, Sidney Powell. Powell has charged that Flynn's old lawyers at Covington & Burling had conflicts of interest and were otherwise ineffective, including by not focusing on Strzok's evident bias.
Strzok wasn't the only top FBI official who apparently bent the rules in targeting Flynn. Comey admitted in 2018 that the fateful Flynn interview at the White House didn't follow protocol, and came at his direction. He said it was not "something I probably wouldn't have done or maybe gotten away with in a more... organized administration."
McCabe later said the interview was "very odd" because "it seemed like [Flynn] was telling the truth" to the two agents who interviewed him. Flynn, the interviewing agents told McCabe, "had a very good recollection of events, which he related chronologically and lucidly," did not appear to be "nervous or sweating," and did not look "side to side" -- all of which would have been "behavioral signs of deception."
During the interview, Flynn told the agents "not really" when asked if he had sought to convince Kislyak not to escalate a brewing fight with the U.S. over sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, according to a FD-302 witness report prepared by the FBI. Flynn also demurred when asked if he had asked Russia to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. (The Obama administration abstained in that vote, which Republicans characterized as a betrayal of a close U.S. ally.)
Flynn issued other apparently equivocal responses to FBI agents' questions, and at various points suggested that such conversations might have happened or that he could not recall them if they did, according to the 302. The 302 indicated that Flynn was apparently aware his communications had been monitored, and at several points he thanks the FBI agents for reminding him of some of his conversations with Russian officials.
A Washington Post article published one day before Flynn's White House interview with the agents, citing FBI sources, publicly revealed that the FBI had wiretapped Flynn's calls with Kislyak and cleared him of any criminal conduct. It was unclear who leaked that information to the Post.
The article offered further support for Flynn's claim that he was on notice that the FBI was aware of the contents of his communications with Russia even before the interview, and raised the question of why the FBI would want to ask Flynn about those communications. Flynn has indicated in court filings that he was apprehensive about potentially disclosing classified information to the agents.
Unsealed FBI notes reveal the intent of the FBI’s 1/24/17 interview of Flynn:
“What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute [Flynn] or get him fired?”
FBI Notes confirm it was all a pretext.
The documents also revealed that ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page emailed Strzok concerning how to conduct the Flynn interview.
Strzok and Page regularly texted to each other about their shared disdain for Trump, and affection for Clinton, even as they worked on investigations involving both Clinton and Trump.
McCabe, who has admitted to lying to FBI investigators in a leak investigation, was fired for multiple violations of the FBI's ethics code.
He has not faced any criminal charges.
The revelations come as the Justice Department has separately revealed that the FBI's investigation into former Trump aide Carter Page was riddled with major errors -- and even featured an ex-FBI attorney doctoring an email from the CIA to make it seem as though Page's Russian contacts were nefarious.
In fact, Page was an informant to the CIA about those contacts -- a key detail the FBI omitted when it told the surveillance court about Page's overseas trips.
Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re or email him at email@example.com.