The chilling words contained in the newly released handwritten notes of William Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division at the time of the FBI’s January 24, 2017 interview with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, confirm the worst suspicions of Flynn’s defense team. Flynn’s lead defense attorney Sidney Powell believes with good reason that the retired three-star general was set up for a perjury trap by senior officials at the FBI. The handwritten notes and other released FBI documents provide her with more ammunition for the defense team’s motion to dismiss the case against Flynn. The motion was filed with the presiding U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. The documents demonstrate the cynical thinking among FBI agents in advance of their meeting with Flynn that occurred at the White House just days after President Trump’s inauguration.
“What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Priestap asked in his handwritten notes. “We regularly show subjects evidence, with the goal of getting them to admit their wrongdoing,” he added. “Protect our institution by not playing games.” The issue was whether to show Flynn certain evidence during the meeting that might have helped refresh his recollection. The “evidence” – redacted in the released version of the notes – is believed to have been transcripts of several phone calls between Flynn and then-U.S. Ambassador to Russia Sergei Kislyak in December 2019 while Flynn was part of the Trump transition team as incoming national security adviser. The FBI interrogators chose to withhold the complete transcripts from Flynn, choosing instead to quote selectively if and when they deemed appropriate.
In addition to Priestap’s handwritten notes, the initial batch of released documents included emails from the disgraced former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and his lover, former FBI counsel Lisa Page. In one of the e-mails, Page discussed “just casually” slipping in towards the beginning of the interview that it is a crime under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 to make false statements to a federal agent, rather than mentioning it immediately following a statement which the agents believe to be false. That’s called trying to pull a fast one when the interviewee would likely be paying less attention.
“The FBI pre-planned a deliberate attack on Gen. Flynn and willfully chose to ignore mention of Section 1001 in the interview despite full knowledge of that practice,” Sidney Powell said in a statement following Wednesday’s document release.
Fifteen more documents unsealed on Thursday are even more explosive. They reveal, among other things, a reversal of the decision by counterintelligence agents to close the case against Flynn after Strzok, who initially led the Russian “collusion” investigation, intervened to keep the Flynn case open. In one of the released texts dated January 4, 2017, Strzok referred to “the 7th floor” of FBI headquarters where then-FBI Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had their offices. Presumably, Comey and McCabe were interested in continuing the Flynn probe. Recall that Comey later boasted to MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace during a December 2019 forum that it was his decision to send the FBI agents to interview Flynn at the White House four days after President Trump’s inauguration. Comey fully realized, he said, that it was “something we, I probably wouldn’t have done or gotten away with in a more organized investigation — a more organized administration.” He said, however, that it was “early enough” in the Trump administration to “just send a couple of guys over.” Comey also admitted that Flynn was not told about the purpose of the interview.
A January 23, 2017 text from Strzok to Page documented that Priestap, the author of the handwritten notes, was uncomfortable in pushing ahead too aggressively with Flynn. The FBI conducted the interview with Flynn the next day anyway. Strzok was one of the agents who questioned Flynn at the White House. There’s more. According to a report by the investigative journalist Sarah Carter, “the text messages reveal that there was an original 302 interview with Flynn that was never turned over to the defense. In those text messages between former FBI lovebirds Attorney Lisa Page and FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, they discuss the interview that was conducted with Flynn at the White House and allude to the alteration of the document.”
Flynn’s defense lawyer Sidney Powell minced no words. “To be clear, we now know by the production of new text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok that there in fact exists an original 302 document created by SSA 1 from his own notes of the January 24, 2017 ambush interview of Gen Flynn,” said Powell. “Further, we know in fact that SSA 1’s original 302 document went to Stzrok who rewrote it substantially, but tried not to ‘completely re-write it so as to save [redacted] voice’ and then was shared by Stzrok with a ‘pissed off’ Page who revised it substantively yet again, crafting the narrative to charge Gen Flynn with a crime he did not commit.” She added that “the travel of this vital document establishes continuously – and until this day – the original FBI agents, the prosecutors, and FBI management’s determination to withhold exculpatory evidence… not only to try to convict an innocent man, but to hide their own crimes.”
The FBI agents involved in the Flynn persecution were clearly trying to maneuver Flynn into admitting that he violated a 218-year-old statute known as the Logan Act or, in the alternative, getting him to lie about his discussions with the Russian ambassador. The Logan Act prohibits U.S. citizens from communicating with any foreign government or its officers, in the absence of authorization by the U.S. government, “with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.”
There have been no convictions under the Logan Act and only one indictment way back in 1803 that was not followed up. The FBI agents and their colleagues in the Justice Department dusted off the dead letter law, using it as a pretext to go after Flynn. In any event, communications between a president-elect or members of the transition team in advance of a president-elect’s inauguration with the representatives of foreign governments are not unusual. President-elect Barack Obama himself, for example, had communications with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and then-Polish President Lech Kaczynski following the 2008 presidential election. From the get-go, the Logan Act was being used by the FBI agents to harass Flynn. As for the charge of lying to the FBI, even the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn had initially concluded that Flynn had not lied. Only later did Special Counsel Mueller’s prosecutors wrest a guilty plea from Flynn, who was facing threats of prosecution against his son as well as financial ruin if he did not cooperate.
The Trump-haters in the FBI and Justice Department abused their powers by willfully targeting Michael Flynn in order to pressure him to turn on President Trump. Judge Sullivan must right this grievous wrong and dismiss the case against Michael Flynn immediately. Then Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham must vigorously pursue the investigation and prosecution of any FBI and Justice Department senior officials involved in conspiring to destroy a great American patriot.