WASHINGTON (CN) — After a bombshell filing this week seemed to reveal an FBI set-up, a federal judge temporarily blocked Michael Flynn from docketing any new records as the former national security adviser fights to have the case against him thrown out.
The Thursday order followed new documents turned over by the defendant’s former Covington Burling legal team — handed to Flynn’s new attorneys on April 24 and made public over the last 24 hours — with handwritten notes by an unnamed official ahead of the interview in which the former three-star army general lied to the FBI.
“What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the unnamed official scrawled in 2017.
President Donald Trump told reporters from the White House Thursday that he now thinks Flynn will be “totally exonerated.”
“It looks to me like Michael Flynn would be exonerated based on everything I’ve seen,” Trump said. “I think he’s a fine man.”
Flynn was fired from the White House after lying to Vice President Mike Pence about calls to a Russian diplomat. But Pence told reporters while in Indiana Thursday that he is now “more inclined to believe it was unintentional than ever before.”
Promising to investigate, Pence said he is “deeply troubled by the revelations of what appears to have been investigative abuse by officials in the Justice Department.”
The new documents further reveal the unknown official debating whether to show Flynn evidence against him during the interview more than three years ago on Jan. 24, four days after Trump took office.
“I agreed yesterday that we shouldn’t show Flynn [redacted] if he didn’t admit,” the official wrote. “I thought [about] it last night, [and] I believe we should rethink this.”
Redactions in court documents black out details on the evidence, but the unknown records may have been transcripts of his phone calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. In the end, FBI agents did not present Flynn with the transcripts, though he told investigators he assumed they were aware of the talks with Kislyak.
Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the conversations in which he offered to lift Obama-era sanctions on the Kremlin. After dropping his Covington Burling attorneys last year, Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea in January, claiming he was provided ineffective counsel by his former legal team and is innocent.
But U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has now prohibited Flynn from filing newly obtained government records in intervals until after prosecutors finish turning over documents to U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeffrey Jensen.
Attorney General William Barr in January directed Jensen to “assist” federal prosecutors in D.C. who took over the case after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation came to a close in March 2019.
Flynn’s legal team had employed the piecemeal filing tactic to build on the former Trump adviser’s motion to dismiss the case against him based on allegations of egregious government misconduct.
Sullivan wrote the order was “in the interests of judicial economy and efficient case management.” The judge is widely known to be critical of Flynn, telling him in a 2019 hearing: “Arguably you sold your country out.”
Prosecutors have turned over an unknown number of records to Flynn, including investigation reports and additional notes and communications “obtained and analyzed” by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Communications between former Flynn case agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page also surfaced in unsealed court records in recent days. Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team in July 2017, after messages between the two FBI officials surfaced, and later fired from the agency.
But the newly revealed records include a Jan. 24 email from Strzok to then-FBI general counsel James Baker and other agency officials. The message appears to request help readying “DD,” likely an abbreviation for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, to call Flynn to set up an interview.
The email includes Strzok suggesting McCabe be prepared — with an agent present at the meeting — for if Flynn questioned whether he was under criminal investigation or began disclosing information.
More handwritten notes, from an unknown official dated Jan. 24, press for agents to confront Flynn with the redacted evidence if he lied in the interview, to force the adviser to confess.
“I don’t see how getting someone to admit their wrongdoing is going easy on him,” the notes which appear to be talking points for an internal agency meeting read.
“If we’re seen as playing games, WH will be furious,” the unknown official added.
For years, the president and his allies have called the Mueller investigation into Russian interference an FBI witch hunt, led by left-leaning career officials to undermine the Trump administration as it took control of Washington.
U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress have confirmed through several probes that Russia did direct subversive plots during the 2016 presidential election, and a core group of former Trump advisers are now serving prison sentences for a variety of criminal offenses uncovered by Mueller’s team.
But the push to dismiss Flynn’s prosecution gained force with the new evidence brought to light this week.
The defense team celebrated the detailed records as a “smoking gun” that the FBI manipulated their client into a perjury trap.
Long speculated to have plans to pardon Flynn, President Trump responded to the bombshell documents over Twitter.
“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” the president said Thursday.
Donald Trump Jr. sounded an even louder defense of Flynn earlier this week, calling for the charges against the defendant to be dropped, and “the treasonous actors who set him up” to be jailed.