Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE on Friday rebuked former national security adviser Michael Flynn for suggesting that FBI agents had duped him into lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
“Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI on January 24,” Mueller wrote in a filing Friday afternoon, asking a federal judge to reject Flynn’s attempt to “minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI.”
“The defendant chose to make false statements about his communications with the Russian ambassador weeks before the FBI interview, when he lied about that topic to the media, the incoming Vice President, and other members of the Presidential Transition Team,” Mueller wrote.
“When faced with the FBI’s question on January 24, during an interview that was voluntary and cordial, the defendant repeated the same false statements,” he continued. “The Court should reject the defendant’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI.”
Mueller was responding to a filing from Flynn’s attorneys earlier this week that requested he be spared jail time.
The filing also suggested he had been tricked by the FBI into lying to agents in his January 2017 interview. The filing has fed a theory among some conservatives that Flynn had been wrongly led to commit a crime.
Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in February 2017 after it was revealed that he misled Pence and others about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak regarding Russia sanctions.
Last December, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s sprawling investigation.
Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 18. Mueller has asked U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to impose a lenient sentence, citing Flynn’s “substantial assistance” in the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Federal sentencing guidelines call for him to serve between zero and six months in prison.
Flynn’s attorneys Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony earlier this week portrayed their client as a victim of the FBI agents who interviewed him.
They wrote that the agents “did not provide General Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement” under federal law and cited an FBI report stating the agents did so "because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport." The attorneys also noted an agent described Flynn as “unguarded” and viewing “the FBI agents as allies" in the interview.
The memo identified one of the FBI agents as Peter Strzok, a frequent target of conservatives since a watchdog investigation revealed text messages in which he expressed critical views of President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE before the election. Strzok has since been fired from the bureau.
Flynn’s attorneys declined to “take issue” with the description of the offenses in Mueller’s initial sentencing memo and did not offer an explanation for why Flynn lied to the FBI.
But the circumstances of Flynn’s interview, they argued, “warrant the Court’s consideration as it evaluates the seriousness of the offense, relative to the circumstances of witness interviews in typical cases charged” under the federal code governing false statements.
In a seven-page memo filed just before a 3 p.m. deadline Friday, Mueller fiercely pushed back on Flynn’s argument.
“A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents,” Mueller wrote.
“He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth.”
Some conservatives and allies of Trump have seized on the memo from Flynn’s attorneys as indicative the one-time national security adviser was entrapped by bureau agents biased against the president.
Indeed, Trump tweeted Thursday that Mueller’s prosecutors offered Flynn a “great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated.”
Trump also alleged that “the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI,” an apparent reference to a report from House Republicans showing that top FBI officials testified that the agents who interviewed Flynn observed no outward indications, such as changes in posture or tone, that indicated he knew he was lying.
Mueller addressed that issue directly on Friday.
“The interviewing agents did not observe indicia of deception and had the impression at that time that the defendant was not lying or did not think he was lying,” Mueller wrote.
“Members of the Presidential Transition Team were likewise misled by the defendant’s false denials. Those misimpressions do not change the fact—as the defendant has admitted in sworn testimony to the District Court—that he was indeed lying, and knowingly made false statements to FBI agents in a national security investigation,” he wrote.
Sullivan has also asked Mueller for documents related to Flynn’s January 2017 interview with the FBI, including memoranda and what are known as 302s, forms on which agents record summaries of interviews. These documents were referenced in Tuesday's memo filed from Flynn's attorneys.
Mueller’s filing on Friday includes a heavily redacted 302 as well as a memo written by then-FBI deputy director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeAndrew McCabe says Nassar case represents 'worst dereliction of duty' he's seen at FBI Capitol Police warning of potential for violence during rally backing rioters: report McCabe says law enforcement should take upcoming right-wing rally 'very seriously' MORE, who was fired in March in advance of a Justice Department inspector general faulting him for lack of candor.