The Justice Department dropped its case against Michael Flynn on Thursday, citing “newly discovered” information from the investigation of the former national security adviser.
The stunning decision comes following a series of revelations in recent weeks from an internal review of the Flynn case led by Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for St. Louis.
Attorney General William Barr appointed Jensen to review the Flynn investigation after the retired general filed a motion to withdraw a guilty plea he entered on Dec. 1, 2017 for making false statements to the FBI during an interview on Jan. 24, 2017.
Flynn said in a Jan. 29, 2020 court filing that he “regret[s]” pleading guilty in his case, asserting that he did not lie to the FBI.
Jensen provided Flynn’s lawyers with an FBI memo from early 2017 which showed the bureau was poised to close an open counterintelligence investigation of Flynn due to a lack of evidence that he had any suspicious ties to Russia.
Jensen also discovered a handwritten memo from an FBI official questioning whether the goal of an interview with Flynn was to “get him to lie” in order to either get him fired or in legal jeopardy.
Flynn was interviewed at the White House regarding his phone calls in December 2016 with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. At the time of the calls, the FBI had an open counterintelligence investigation against Flynn and three other Trump associates.
Jensen said in a statement Thursday that recommended to Barr that the case against Flynn be dismissed.
“Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case. I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed,” Jensen said.
Timothy Shea, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., said in a court filing Thursday that the FBI interview with Flynn did not have “a legitimate investigative basis” to the counterintelligence probe.
“The Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn,” Shea said in the filing. (RELATED: DOJ Official Abruptly Withdraws From Flynn Case)
The decision to drop charges against Flynn is certain to prove polarizing. President Donald Trump has long accused prosecutors of mistreating Flynn, while Trump’s critics have accused him of improperly meddling in the Justice Department’s investigation of his former national security adviser.
The FBI opened its investigation on Flynn on Aug. 16, 2016, as part of Crossfire Hurricane, the counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign. The FBI also investigated Trump campaign advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort.
Investigators initially looked into whether Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama, “was directed and controlled by and/or coordinated activities with the Russian Federation.”
The Jan. 4, 2017 memo from the FBI said that investigators found no derogatory information regarding Flynn. The FBI investigation of Flynn was kept open, however, at the request of Peter Strzok, who then served as deputy chief of FBI counterintelligence.
Shea says in the memo that Strzok wanted to keep the investigation open after reviewing transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak. But Shea says that Flynn’s phone call with Kislyak “did not warrant either continuing that existing counterintelligence investigation or opening a new criminal investigation.”
“The calls were entirely appropriate on their face,” Shea wrote.
He asserted that the phone calls showed no evidence of an “inappropriate relationship” between Flynn and Kislyak, and that Flynn acknowledged during his White House interview that his communications with the Russian ambassador were likely monitored.
Shea also said that there was no need for the FBI to interview Flynn since investigators had a word-for-word transcript of his conversation with Kislyak.
Strzok was one of two FBI agents who conducted the Jan. 24, 2017 interview with Flynn.
Prosecutors also provided Flynn’s lawyers with a handwritten note from Jan. 24, 2017, in which Bill Priestap, Strzok’s boss, asked whether the goal of a Flynn interview was to get him to lie to the FBI.
“What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Priestap wrote in the memo.
With the dismissal, Flynn is now seemingly free from a gag order preventing him from discussing his case. Flynn has spoken out through court filings seeking to withdraw from his plea deal.
Flynn said in a Jan. 29, 2020 court filing that he did not lie to the FBI and that he “regret[s]” pleading guilty in his case. He said he entered the plea deal because prosecutors had threatened to prosecute his son.
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