House Intel report: McCabe said agents who interviewed Flynn ‘didn’t think he was lying’
The House Intelligence Committee on Friday released a newly unredacted section of its final Russia report detailing testimony from former senior FBI officials about the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his contacts with a top Russian diplomat.
The unredacted portion of the report, written by Republicans on the panel, details testimony from former FBI Director James Comey and his then-deputy, Andrew McCabe. The report says McCabe, in particular, testified that the two agents who interviewed Flynn “didn’t think he was lying.”
Despite the agents’ initial impressions, McCabe reportedly testified that officials found that Flynn’s statements to investigators were “inconsistent” with their “understanding of the conversation that he had actually had with the ambassador.”
Flynn was ousted as President Trump’s first national security adviser for misrepresenting to Vice President Pence and others his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a conversation that took place shortly before Trump took office.
Flynn was fired less than a month after entering the White House. Later in the year, he pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
At the time of their testimony before the Intelligence Committee in the spring of 2017, Comey and McCabe were serving as the No. 1 and No. 2 officials at the FBI, respectively. Comey was later fired by Trump, while McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year.
“Although Deputy Director McCabe acknowledged that ‘the two people who interviewed [Flynn] didn’t think he was lying, [which] was not [a] great beginning of a false statement case,’ General Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements on December 1, 2017,” a newly unredacted part of the report reads.
The document also says top government officials had conflicting reports about why the two agents were interviewing Flynn in the first place.
The committee “received conflicting testimony” from Comey, McCabe, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord about the “primary purpose” of the interview, the report states.
The report claims that these top FBI and Justice Department officials had different answers regarding whether the agents were “investigating misleading statements to the Vice President, which the Vice President echoed publicly about the content of this calls; a possible violation of the Logan Act; or a desire top obtain more information as part of the counterintelligence investigation into General Flynn.”
The report notes that Comey testified that “the agents … discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them.”
McCabe also then confirmed this to the Intelligence Committee, according to the report, but added that they’d found Flynn’s statements were “inconsistent” with what they had understood to be his conversations with Kislyak.
Flynn said in his phone call with Kislyak in late December 2016 that he had “requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the U.S. sanctions in a reciprocal manner,” according to the report.
“Russia decided not to reciprocate, which eventually led senior U.S. government officials to try to understand why. … In a subsequent call with General Flynn, Ambassador Kislyak attributed the action to General Flynn’s Request,” the report reads.
Shortly after Flynn’s meeting with the FBI agents, two senior officials from the Department of Justice met with White House counsel Don McGahn in late January to discuss “the discrepancies between the transcripts of General Flynn’s calls and his statements to the FBI,” the report says.
According to court documents filed by the special counsel’s team, Flynn lied when he told investigators that he did not ask Kislyak to “refrain from escalating the situation” in response to sanctions that then-President Obama had levied on Russia in response to meddling in the election.
Mueller also charged that Flynn lied when he said he did not ask the ambassador to stymie an unrelated United Nations Security Council vote.
He is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, which is also examining possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The GOP-authored report found no evidence of collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin, something that Trump has repeatedly insisted does not exist.
The document, which largely defends the president, aims to rebut a series of claims about the campaign’s ties to Russia, devoting an entire chapter, roughly 20 pages, to challenge such points.
Democrats on the committee have rejected the document produced by the panel, which conducted a politically fraught investigation dominated by partisanship.
Democrats, who put out their own report, claim that their Republican colleagues prematurely shut down the investigation in an effort to shield Trump.