DOJ releases Flynn interviews with Mueller team

DOJ releases Flynn interviews with Mueller team

The Justice Department released on Friday more than 100 pages of FBI interview notes from retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s discussions with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team in 2017 and 2018.

The 121 pages of records, which still contain numerous redacted sections, were released by the Justice Department following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by BuzzFeed and CNN and detail 14 interviews that the former Trump national security adviser had with Mueller’s investigative team — five in November 2017, three in January 2018, one in April 2018, four in May 2018, and one in September 2018. Mueller’s report was made public in April 2019, and Flynn’s name was mentioned in it 672 times.

Mueller concluded the Russian government interfered in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” President Trump issued Flynn a pardon just before Thanksgiving, and the federal judge handling the case dismissed the charges a couple weeks later after months of resistance.

Flynn, 62, agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, though the defense team that negotiated the plea deal was fired. Flynn’s new lawyer, Sidney Powell, began arguing in 2019 that “there never would’ve been a plea to begin with” if Flynn knew how much information the Justice Department was hiding from him.

Both Flynn and Powell were recently banned from Twitter amid a crackdown on promotion of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory after the two had spent weeks claiming that Trump had not really lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

The retired general fought to dismiss the government’s case against him throughout 2020 after he pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to investigators about his December 2016 conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak related to Russia’s response to the Obama administration kicking Russians out of the United States as retaliation for Russian election interference and related to a United Nations resolution on Israel. The U.S. government intercepted Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak, after which now-fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI agent Joseph Pientka grilled him on the contents of the conversation on Jan. 24, 2017.

Flynn told the court in January 2020 that he was “innocent of this crime.” He filed to withdraw his guilty plea after the Justice Department asked the judge to sentence him to up to six months in prison — though, afterward, the department said probation would also be appropriate. The Justice Department, under then-Attorney General William Barr, later moved to drop the charges in May, following a deep-dive review by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeffrey Jensen. The DOJ said that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice.”

Instead, presiding Judge Emmet Sullivan, an appointee of President Bill Clinton who had handled the Flynn case since December 2017, appointed retired New York judge John Gleeson to present arguments in opposition to the Justice Department’s motion and to explore whether Flynn should be charged with perjury or contempt.

Fired FBI Director James Comey has admitted he took advantage of the chaos in the early days of Trump’s administration when he sent FBI agents over to the White House to talk to Flynn. Records released in April 2020 included handwritten notes from Bill Priestap on the day the FBI interviewed Flynn, showing doubts about the strategy being pursued, with the Hurricane leader writing, “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

Declassified FBI documents also show the counterintelligence briefing the bureau gave to Trump and his national security team during the 2016 campaign was used as a way to gather investigative evidence on the Trump campaign and Flynn. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified that this briefing was a “pretext” to help the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

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