Attorney General Bill Barr explained that the FBI did not conduct “a bonafide counterintelligence investigation” in the case that led former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn to plead guilty to federal investigators in 2017.
Barr, speaking in an exclusive interview with CBS News after the Justice Department dropped its case against Flynn on Thursday, said that his review of the case found Bureau investigators laid “a perjury trap” for Flynn in a January 2017 White House interview.
“They didn’t warn him, the way that would usually be required by the Department, they bypassed the Justice Department, they bypassed the protocols at the White House, and so forth,” Barr stated. “These were things that persuaded me that there was not a legitimate counterintelligence investigation.”
Former FBI director James Comey admitted in a December 2018 interview that he “sent” the agents to interview Flynn, adding that it was “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more organized administration.”
In its Thursday court filing, the Justice Department explained that it was “not persuaded” that Flynn’s interview, which led to his guilty plea for lying to FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, had proper predication and was materially relevant.
Comey tweeted his disappointment, following the decision, saying “the DOJ has lost its way.”
The DOJ has lost its way. But, career people: please stay because America needs you. The country is hungry for honest, competent leadership.
— James Comey (@Comey) May 7, 2020
Barr pointed to recently-released information that showed the FBI moved to close its surveillance of Flynn after finding “no derogatory information” about the retired general’s contacts with Russians, only for Strzok to keep the case open, leading to the eventual interview.
“They were closing the investigation, in December , they started that process and on January 4, they were closing it. When they heard about the phone call, which the FBI had the transcripts to — there was no question as to what was discussed, the FBI knew exactly what was discussed — and General Flynn, being the former director of the DIA, said to them, ‘you listen to everything, you know what was said,’” Barr explained.
“So there’s no mystery about the call, but they initially tried some theories of how could open another investigation, which didn’t fly, and then they found out that they had not technically closed the earlier investigation, and they kept it open for the expressed purpose of trying to catch — lay a perjury trap — for General Flynn,” he added.
A different filing released last week showed handwritten notes from an FBI official that questioned if the goal of Flynn’s White House interview was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
Barr also did not comment on whether those that sought to entrap Flynn would face criminal charges, pointing to U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and saying his team was “in the middle” of “looking at the whole pattern of conduct.”
“I’m going to wait until all the evidence is [in], and I get their recommendations as to what they found and how serious it is. But, if we were to find wrongdoing, in the sense of any criminal act, obviously we would follow through on that,” Barr said. “But again, just because something may even stink to high heaven, and appear to everyone to be bad, we still have to apply the right standard and be convinced that there is a violation of a criminal statute and that we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The same standard applies to everybody.”