“DIRTY COP JAMES COMEY GOT CAUGHT!” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning, in one of a series of tweets lambasting the FBI’s prosecution of retired army general Michael Flynn, which he called a “scam.”
Flynn served as Trump’s national security adviser in the first days of the Trump presidency, before he was fired for allegedly lying about his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
An FBI investigation followed, and several months later, Flynn pleaded guilty to Special Counsel Robert Mueller about lying during interviews with agents. He has since tried to withdraw the plea, citing poor legal defense and accusing the FBI and Obama administration of setting him up from the outset.
Documents unsealed by a federal judge on Wednesday seem to support that argument. In one handwritten note, dated the same day as Flynn’s FBI interview in January 2017, the unidentified note-taker jots down some potential strategies to use against the former general.
“We have a case on Flynn + Russians,” the note reads. “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
The unsealed documents also include an email exchange between former agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, in which the pair pondered whether to remind Flynn that lying to federal agents is a crime. Page and Strzok were later fired from the agency, after a slew of text messages emerged showing the pair’s mutual disdain for Trump, and discussing the formulation of an “insurance policy” against his election.
Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak were deemed truthful by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Additionally, a Washington Post article published the day before Flynn’s January 2017 interview revealed that the FBI had tapped his calls with the Russian ambassador and found “nothing illicit.”
Still, Section 1001 of the US Criminal Code, which makes it illegal to lie to a federal agent, is broad in its scope. Defense Attorney Solomon Wisenberg wrote that “even a decent person who tries to stay out of trouble can face criminal exposure under Section 1001 through a fleeting conversation with government agents.”
Agents hold all the cards in an interview, Wisenberg noted, and can contrast a suspect’s recollection of events against evidence they hold. In the handwritten note unsealed on Wednesday, the note-taker referred back to an office conversation on whether or not to reveal to Flynn a piece of evidence – believed to be the wiretap recordings – should he refuse to implicate himself.
“If you are not confirming [the agent’s] version of events,” Wisenberg explained, “your mistakes can easily be interpreted as intentional falsehoods under Section 1001.”
Though Comey’s name does not appear on any of the unsealed documents, Trump has long accused the former agency chief of orchestrating the “witch hunt” against him and his campaign. In Flynn’s case, Comey himself admitted in 2018 that the interview, conducted at his behest, broke agency protocol and was “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more…organized administration.”
Trump announced last month that he is “strongly considering a full pardon” for Flynn. Although prosecutors have pushed for a jail term of up to six months for the former general, a federal judge indefinitely postponed his sentencing in February, after Attorney General William Barr ordered his case to be reviewed.
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