The Justice Department has moved to withdraw its case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, citing “newly discovered and disclosed information,” according to a new court filing.
The move, first reported by The Associated Press, comes less than an hour after the top prosecutor on the case, Brandon Van Grack, submitted his withdrawal from the case. The decision said that the White House interview Flynn gave to the FBI, which ultimately led to his guilty plea, was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
“The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe that Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue,” the decision states, citing Flynn’s 2017 guilty plea of lying to federal investigators. “Moreover, we do not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney tasked by Attorney General Bill Barr in February to reviewing the case, recommended that it be dropped. Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea in January, saying he “never lied” to FBI agents over his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case,” Jensen said in a statement. “I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions, and he agreed.” The DOJ’s filing states that Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak “were entirely appropriate on their face.”
In recent weeks, additional information released in the case has shed scrutiny on the way the case was conducted. Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell claimed last month in a court filing that Van Grack had made a “side deal” with Flynn’s former defense team that was withheld from the retired Army general, citing heavily-redacted emails that show Flynn’s former lawyers discussing why the deal needed to be “kept secret,” implying that Flynn would be used to testify in further criminal cases.
Further documents released last week showed handwritten notes from an FBI official questioning the goal of Flynn’s White House interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, suggesting the intent was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
Another release revealed that Flynn had been the subject of a spinoff surveillance operation under the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” probe of the 2016 Trump campaign.
But when investigators moved to close their surveillance of Flynn on January 4, 2017, saying they had found “no derogatory information” on Flynn’s alleged Russian contacts, Strzok moved to request that the case be kept open. That same day, texts show him telling a redacted individual on January 4 that “7th floor involved,” an apparent nod to James Comey and Andrew McCabe, as the seventh floor in Bureau headquarters houses senior FBI leadership.
The Justice Department said in its filing to drop the case that Flynn’s interview with Strzok and Pientka was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn.”
When asked about the agents who interviewed Flynn by MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace in December 2018, Comey admitted “I sent them,” saying the situation was “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more organized administration.”