“Lying” to the FBI is a crime in the United States. It is a crime which requires intent.
As Andrew McCarthy over at NRO points out, Flynn has pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI and that, in itself, closes the door on claims that he is innocent of the charge.
However, that assumes that the charge was proper in the first place. And there, even McCarthy admits, things get murky. Murky enough that Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has demanded that the Special Counsel turn over all its records of what went on with Flynn. Special Counsel turned over documents on Friday. There were two documents of note: first a 302 (the FBI’s record of interviews) for Peter Strzok’s interview seven months after the Flynn interview, second, notes made by Andrew McCabe at the time of the Flynn interview. Notably absent in the Special Counsel’s document pile was the 302 which actually recorded the Flynn interview.
Canada’s own Stephen McIntyre of Climate Audit fame, takes a long Twitter look at the circumstances of Flynn’s plea deal and the actual requirements for even the least formal FBI interview. McIntyre notes that, at the time of the interview, Flynn had legal representation on other matters which, in turn, made him a “represented person” for FBI/DOJ purposes. (There is also the rather good argument that any senior White House staffer is automatically “represented” by White House counsel in any matter involving the DOJ. A fact acknowledged in an MSNBC interview by former FBI Director Comey:
“Describing how it is usually done, Comey said, “If the FBI wanted to send agents into the White House itself to interview a senior official, you would work through the White House counsel, and there would be discussions and approvals and who would be there.”
Recalling his decision to bypass those steps, Comey said, “I thought: ‘It’s early enough, let’s just send a couple guys over.’”)
Taking advantage of the early days of an administration to sandbag a senior official goes some distance towards tainting the investigation itself. However, ignoring DOJ/FBI policy with respect to represented persons is likely more significant.
At this point virtually all commentators agree that General Flynn will not be going to jail. But would still leave him with the taint of a felony conviction.
Judge Sullivan is in a position to vacate the plea agreement altogether if he sees evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.
Sending agents on a fishing expedition, telling the fish not to bother with legal counsel (when the fish is already represented), either failing to record or losing the contemporaneous record of the interview, substituting an interview with one of the interviewing agents for the contemporaneous record, and indicating – on such records as you do submit that the agents did not think Flynn was lying or intending to mislead the agents, all add up to more than ample grounds for Judge Sullivan to vacate.
However, given Judge Sullivan’s record, he may not stop at simply vacating the plea agreement. He is perfectly capable of going after the actual investigators and prosecutors who so badly abused the process to indict Flynn in the first place. (cf. Ted Stevens)
There is a pretty good argument that losing the Flynn plea deal to a Judge’s findings of prosecutorial misconduct would be the end of the line for the Mueller “investigation”. It is very clear that Mueller has not found much – if anything – in the way of evidence of direct Trump/Russia collusion. The ancillary crimes of Cohen and Manafort have nothing to do with Russia and little to do with Trump. Writing up a report for the incoming Democrat-controlled House of Representatives along the lines of “Orange Man Bad” is really all Mueller has left to do.
However, with Mueller gone, it will be time to start digging on exactly how the DOJ/FBI behaved on various files. Were it up to me I would start with the FISA application for the surveillance of Carter Page who Mark Styen likes to refer to as “the most innocent man in America”. Competent counsel can work outwards from there, charging as they go. Apparently, it is illegal to mislead the FISA court in sworn documents.
Should be interesting as there is a lot more “there” there, than there has been in the Mueller fishing trip.
Update: Well worth reading Mark Wauck Mueller’s ‘Enterprise’ Witch Hunt
Update #2: Margot Cleveland over at The Federalist takes a look at the dockets and suggests that the original 302 may have been filed under seal. There is a very good chance she’s right simply because Special Counsel would be nuts to refuse to submit documents in its possession at the order of the Judge. Especially this Judge.