13:06 GMT24 September 2020
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    Newly-unsealed Federal Bureau of Investigation notes relating to the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian government officials reveal the Bureau seemingly set out to compel Flynn to lie, in order to “prosecute him or get him fired”.

    On 29th December 2016, Flynn spoke briefly with Russian ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak, asking whether Russia might vote against or abstain on a United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue of Israeli settlements.

    The conversation was viewed with suspicion by the FBI, with operatives apparently wondering whether a secret deal of some kind had been reached, or was in the works, between the Kremlin and the incoming Donald Trump administration. Such an arrangement would’ve potentially breached the Logan Act, which bars private US citizens from unauthorised negotiation with foreign powers. The somewhat arcane legislation became US law in 1799, and not a single individual has been prosecuted under its auspices since.  

    ‘Playing Games’

    Flynn was interviewed by the Bureau 24th January 2017 - an internal FBI note, handwritten by FBI's former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap after a meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, now unsealed via a consent agreement between Flynn’s lawyers and the Department of Justice (DOJ), written earlier that day asks “what is our goal?”.

    “Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired? If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ and have them decide…or, if initially lies, then we present him [redacted] and he admits it, document for DOJ, and let them decide how to address it. If we're seen as playing games, WH [White House] will be furious,” the note read. 

    ​Also included among the unsealed documents are email exchanges between Lisa Page, Special Counsel to Deputy Director McCabe, and Peter Strzok, one of the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn - the pair were engaged in an extramarital affair at the time. Text messages they contemporaneously exchanged released in June 2017 reveal Strzok harboured virulently anti-Trump views, leading to his dismissal from Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel probe, and firing from the FBI in August 2018  – Page also resigned from the Bureau in May that year after being demoted.

    In the first, dated 23rd January 2017, Page asks Strzok whether the “admonition re 1001” - a reference to knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements, or concealing information, in "any matter within the jurisdiction" of the federal government of the United States - could be given “at the beginning of the interview”.

    "Or does it have to come following a statement which agents believe to be false? Does the policy speak to that? I feel bad that I don't know this but I don't remember ever having to do this! Plus I've only charged it once in the context of lying to a feeral probation officer. It seems to be if the former, then it would be an easy way to just casually slip that in. 'Of course as you know sir, federal law makes it a crime to...',” Page wrote.

    Strzok responded promptly, stating he hadn't "read the policy lately", but if he recalled correctly "you can say it at any time". "I'm 90 percent sure about that, but I can check in the AM," he said.

    Typo Negative

    Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to Bureau agents in the resultant interview, and began extensively cooperating with prosecutors. However, after hiring a new legal team, Flynn began claiming he was set up and framed by the FBI - and ever since, his counsel, led by Sidney Powell, have unearthed a veritable deluge of documentation seemingly supporting claims of a high-level stitch up.

    For instance, in October 2019 private correspondence between Strzok and Page dating to February 2017 was released in an explosive filing by Flynn’s legal representatives - Powell suggests the content pointed to “a plot to set up an innocent man and create a crime” by maliciously and misleadingly editing the details of Flynn’s ‘302, the form used by FBI operative to report or summarise interviews they conduct.

    ​In one disclosed text exchange between the two dated 10th February 2017, Strzok told Page to “drop off what you have” so he can “incorporate” the content – in response, she says “I gave my edits to Bill to put on your desk”. A few texts later, Strzok confirms he made Page’s requested edits, stating he also emailed her “an updated 302”.

    “I’m not asking you to edit it this weekend, I just wanted to send it to you, and hopefully it doesn’t need much more editing. I will polish it this weekend, and have it ready for Monday. I really appreciate your time and edits,” he concluded.

    It’s not entirely certain what prompted the edits, but Powell suggested the impetus was news reporting that day alleging Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak, contrary to what Vice President Mike Pence had asserted previously – a comparison of the 302 before and after Page’s edits would seem to strongly support this conclusion.

    ​“Overnight, the most important substantive changes were made to the 302. Those changes added an unequivocal statement ‘Flynn stated he did not’ in response to whether Flynn asked Kislyak to vote in a certain manner or slow down the UN vote. This is a deceptive manipulation because, as the notes of the agents show, Flynn wasn’t even sure he’d spoken to Russia/Kislyak on this issue. He’d talked to dozens of countries. Second, they added ‘or if Kisylak described any Russian response to a request by Flynn’. That question and answer don’t appear in the notes, yet it was made into a criminal offense...The draft also shows the agents moved a sentence to make it seem to be an answer to a question it was not,” Powell stated.

    Other changes between the draft and finalised 302 raise further questions, for in the original, Flynn is quoted as saying he didn’t remember making four or five calls, but if he did so, it was because his phone service was poor and the line kept cutting out – the amended transcript states the opposite, with Flynn remembering “making four to five calls that day”.

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    Tags:
    Russiagate, FBI, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, General Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn
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