GOP lawmakers rush to defend Flynn, attack FBI
GOP lawmakers on Thursday rushed to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s defense after new documents unsealed in his criminal case showed FBI agents discussing how to approach his interview.
Republicans seized on documents released late Wednesday that showed FBI agents planning Flynn’s interview, including one asking whether it was their goal to “get him to lie,” as another opportunity to decry the FBI’s handling of his case.
Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that it was “clear now that General Flynn was set up by dirty cops at the highest levels of our government.”
Some Republicans even went on to endorse the idea that Flynn should be pardoned. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that the new documents showed “egregious and unacceptable behavior,” adding that “I believe @realDonaldTrump should pardon Gen. Flynn.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) endorsed Paul’s position, tweeting “Rand correct again.”
President Trump, who has not ruled out a pardon for Flynn, also railed against the FBI on Thursday.
“They came at him with 15 buses, and he’s standing in the middle of a highway. What they did to this man, they tormented him. They destroyed him. But he’s going to come back. Like I say, he’s going to come back bigger and better,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, after tweeting multiple times Thursday morning in support of Flynn.
Trump added that Flynn “is in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration.”
In the notes, an unidentified FBI agent asks “what’s our goal?”
“Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the note reads. “If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ & have 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.”
“If we’re seen as playing games, WH will be furious,” the note reads. “Protect our institution by not playing games.”
The Logan Act is a law that bars unauthorized Americans from negotiating with foreign governments over disputes with the U.S.
Flynn resigned as national security adviser after admitting that he misled administration officials about his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to Washington about U.S. sanctions before Trump took office. Flynn initially pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to investigators about his contacts with foreign nationals, including the Russian ambassador, but has since sought to withdraw his plea.
Before Flynn resigned from the White House, the Justice Department was aware of the contents of his communications about sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the Trump administration at the time that Flynn hadn’t been truthful and that he could be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.
The Democratic chairs of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees didn’t immediately comment on the new documents. But some legal experts downplayed their significance.
Daniel Goldman, the former director of investigations for the House Intelligence Committee under Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said that the notes from the FBI agents likely don’t include the full context.
“We should see all of the notes — not just the one page publicized by Flynn’s lawyer — but even this one page hardly ‘exonerates’ him,’ Goldman tweeted. “The notes show that FBI senior officials were debating whether to play the Kislyak recording if Flynn lied about it. The goal was to get to the truth/have Flynn admit his conduct — and NOT simply get him fired — so this official was inclined to confront him with the evidence.”
Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor, said it’s not unusual for prosecutors and FBI agents to discuss how to approach an interview with a suspect.
“As a federal prosecutor, FBI & I questioned more subjects than I can count. Every time, there were 3 potential outcomes. Subject: 1) Tells the truth; 2) Lies (& potentially gets charged); 3) Refuses to talk. There is nothing unusual about discussing how each could play out,” Honig tweeted Thursday.
Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, turned his ire toward FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Where is Christopher Wray? Why didn’t we learn any of this from him? Thank goodness for [Flynn attorney] Sidney Powell and [Attorney General] Bill Barr or we would have never got this information,” Jordan said during an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
“If they can do this to a three-star general, if they can do this to the president of the United States, imagine what they can do to you and me. And, more importantly, imagine what they can do to the 750,000 people I get the privilege of representing in the fourth district of Ohio. That is what’s so troubling about all of this. And Christopher Wray needs to — needs to tell us what he’s been up to this two and a half years that he’s been director of the FBI,” Jordan said.
Other Republicans allied with Trump seized on the documents as confirmation of their suspicions about the FBI following the special counsel’s investigation about Russian election interference intended to help Trump in 2016.
“The more that comes out, the more we are proven correct,” Gaetz tweeted.
“This is more proof they intentionally targeted, set up & destroyed Michael Flynn — a war hero serving as National Security Advisor. The #DeepState MUST be held accountable for this flagrant injustice,” tweeted Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.).
Trump on Thursday also suggested that his longtime associate Roger Stone, who was also charged in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation for lying to investigators and witness tampering, was similarly treated unfairly. Stone is appealing his prison sentence after the judge in his case rejected his request for a retrial.
As with Flynn, Trump has also not ruled out a pardon for Stone.
“Does anybody really believe that Roger Stone, a man whose house was raided early in the morning by 29 gun toting FBI Agents (with Fake News @CNN closely in toe), was treated fairly,” Trump tweeted. “How about the jury forewoman with her unannounced hatred & bias. Same scammers as General Flynn!”