The chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding that the Department of Justice and FBI adhere to requests made over a year ago and turn over all documentation associated with the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn, who plead guilty to one count of lying to the FBI, despite evidence and admissions from senior FBI officials that he did not lie. Moreover, the letter reveals, for the first time, the name of the second FBI agent who interviewed Flynn at the White House regarding his conversation with the former Russian Ambassador.
“The Department has withheld the Flynn-related documents since our initial bipartisan request last year, citing an ongoing criminal investigation…”
Senator Chuck Grassley
Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent the letter to Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray Friday requesting a slew of documentation pertaining to Flynn’s case. He noted that on Feb. 15, 2017, a bipartisan group of members from his committee had requested a copy of the intercepted classified phone transcript between Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and due to an ongoing investigation the DOJ and FBI denied the committee’s request. Flynn was fired by President Trump in February 2017 for apparently not being forthright with Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with Kislyak.
Grassley stated in Friday’s letter that at the time the committee requested the documentation on Flynn, “the Justice Department declined to provide any of that information, and instead, then-FBI Director (James) Comey provided a wide-ranging briefing to us on March 15, 2017, that touched on the Flynn issues.”
“The Department has withheld the Flynn-related documents since our initial bipartisan request last year, citing an ongoing criminal investigation,” Grassley stated. “With Flynn’s plea, the investigation appears concluded.”
Because of the developments in the Flynn case, the committee is demanding that the documents be turned over by the DOJ and Wray by May 25th. The lawmakers also requested that the transcripts of the reportedly intercepted calls between Flynn and Kislyak “and any FBI reports summarizing them” be included in the request. Part of the request includes the FBI agents’ 302s, which are the interview summaries with Flynn and supporting documentation, including the agents’ notes from the date they interviewed Flynn.
Last year, this reporter revealed that one of the agents who interviewed Flynn is now embattled FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, whose paramour FBI Attorney Lisa Page has recently resigned from the bureau. Over the last year, evidence collected by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed the pairs extraordinary bias against the Trump campaign and possible interference by them in the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between the campaign and Russia.
Grassley requested that FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka, who was with Strzok during his White House interview on Jan. 24, 2017, be made available “for a transcribed interview with Committee staff no later than one week following the production of the requested documents.”
The committee also had a “non-partisan law enforcement officer who was present,” during the interview with Flynn Grassley revealed in the letter.
“The agent was on detail to the Committee staff at the time,” Grassley stated. “According to that agent’s contemporaneous notes, Director Comey specifically told us during that briefing that the FBI agents who interviewed Lt. General Michael Flynn, “saw nothing that led them to believe [he was] lying.” Our own Committee staff’s notes indicate that Mr. Comey said the “agents saw no change in his demeanor or tone that would say he was being untruthful.”
According to numerous law enforcement officials I’ve spoken to over the past year, neither Strzok or Pientka believed Flynn was lying during their interview with him, as reported.
“There’s a lot these agents can reveal about that day and what (former FBI Deputy Director Andrew) McCabe’s role was in all of it,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. “McCabe was apparently trying to find a reason, any reason, to make it look like Flynn was lying. But the truth of the matter is – no one thought he lied, not even the agent that hated Trump.”
The controversy surrounding Flynn’s guilty plea grew wider over the past month as Comey, who has been promoting his book A Higher Loyalty, told reporters that he did not tell Congress that the agents who interviewed Flynn didn’t believe that he lied. But earlier this month, a newly redacted version of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia report revealed just the opposite.
According to the Russia report, “Director Comey testified to the Committee 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.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee also verified in its letter to Rosenstein, that Comey told the committee that the agents did not believe Flynn was lying and that the FBI would not be seeking charges against him. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, however, got Flynn to plead guilty to one count of lying and the reasons behind that guilty plea still remain a mystery. Sources close to Flynn said that with mounting legal fees, the strain on his family and possible threats to wrap his son Michael Flynn Jr. into the investigation led to Flynn’s decision to plead guilty.
“Contrary to his public statements during his current book tour denying any memory of those comments, then-Director Comey led us to believe during that briefing that the agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe he intentionally lied about his conversation with the Ambassador and that the Justice Department was unlikely to prosecute him for false statements made in that interview,” Grassley added.
Moreover, Grassley noted that since Mueller has moved to delay Flynn’s sentencing on several occasions “we presume that all related records already have been provided to the defense pursuant to Judge (Emmett G.) Sullivan’s February 16, 2018 order requiring the production of all potentially exculpatory material.”
As first reported here, Mueller turned over the exculpatory material to Sullivan in March. In December, Sullivan ordered Mueller’s team to provide Flynn’s attorneys with any and all information that may have been withheld from the case. Sullivan took over as the presiding judge after District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras was recused from the case on Dec. 7. Sullivan ordered the government to produce any evidence in its possession that is “favorable to defendant and material either to defendant’s guilt or punishment.”
As for the Senate Judiciary Committee, the material requested by Sullivan is also part of the documentation the committee requested on Flynn over a year ago for oversight and they warned that the committee’s request “now outweighs any legitimate executive branch interest in withholding it.”