Now that the debunked and defunct Russia collusion investigation seems to most like ancient history, the story of General Michael Flynn, formerly President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, also has faded from view. That story has yet to be concluded, though, as Flynn has still not been sentenced. The general’s conviction for lying to federal investigators was always on shaky ground and, with a recent court filing, Flynn’s defense team has gone on offense, accusing the prosecution of doctoring evidence to incriminate its client.
Although Flynn’s counsel was not able to successfully use the fact in the general’s defense, Flynn was in effect deliberately subjected to a perjury trap by the FBI. Just days after assuming his post in the White House, Flynn was visited by FBI agents – the now infamous and disgraced Peter Strzok being one of them – who wanted to know about the general’s contacts with the Russian ambassador.
Was Flynn Set Up?
The meeting was carefully crafted by FBI officials involved in the Russia probe, as text messages and other FBI documents have revealed, to catch Flynn off guard: He was advised that he would not need to have an attorney present and he certainly was not informed that his questioning by federal agents was part of any investigation or criminal probe.
It is the 302 – the FBI’s contemporaneous report – from this meeting that is now the subject of contention. Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney, filed a motion with the court on October 24, taking issue with the version of the 302 that was presented by the prosecution. Powell also demanded that the government turn over additional evidence and urged the court to dismiss Flynn’s prosecution.
At issue, says Powell, is the alleged altering of the 302 to make it appear as though the general directly lied to FBI agents. On the subject of an upcoming vote in the UN, the 302 notes “Flynn stated he did not” urge Ambassador Kislyak to vote in a certain way. Powell maintains that her client, in fact, had no recollection of speaking with Kislyak about the UN vote.
“This is a deceptive manipulation,” Powell claims in the motion, ”because, as the notes of the agents show, Mr. Flynn was not even sure he had spoken to Russia/Kislyak on the issue. He had talked to dozens of countries.” The attorney claims the prosecution is withholding the original 302 and other exculpatory evidence. Powell does not claim to know who altered the 302.
Deception and Conflicts of Interest
Federal prosecutors have dismissed Powell’s objections and stated that they have been fully transparent with the evidence. The entire case has been tainted by potentially deceptive practices and conflicts of interest from the very beginning, though.
The federal judge who originally accepted Flynn’s guilty plea, Rudolph Contreras, recused himself shortly thereafter. Contreras was a personal friend of none other than Peter Strzok, the Trump-hating FBI official who interviewed Flynn and who was also instrumental in launching the Bureau’s counterintelligence operation which sought to uncover links between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian officials.
The prolonging of Flynn’s case has been a disgrace in itself. The charge to which he pleaded guilty was a fairly simple one, yet former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team left Flynn dangling for well over a year – almost certainly hoping that, under the strain, he would offer up some incriminating statements about President Trump. Flynn’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was violated, it could be argued, and his sentencing was several times delayed by Mueller’s people.
It is not unreasonable to predict that Powell’s latest attack on the government’s case will yield nothing of benefit to Flynn but, in light of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, perhaps the general’s reputation, at least, may yet be vindicated.