This seems more like a political problem for Mueller than a legal problem, but it *is* a political problem. The same FBI agent who had to be dismissed from the Russiagate probe for criticizing the president privately was part of the all-important January 24th interview that produced the false statements that ended up flipping Mike Flynn?
Bear in mind that FBI interviews infamously aren’t recorded so the credibility and objectivity of the interrogators is crucial in proving that the subject lied. A big question right now: Did Mike Flynn know why the agent, Peter Strzok, left the Russiagate probe before he made his plea deal with Mueller? It was widely reported in August that Strzok was off the investigation but not until Saturday — the day after Flynn’s plea — was the reason publicly disclosed. Imagine being Mike Flynn, having agreed to cooperate with the special counsel due to alleged lies he told in January, finding out only after the fact that the guy who squeezed those alleged lies out of him may have had a political agenda. Can he challenge the plea agreement because of this?
Before you get excited, though, note that Strzok wasn’t the only agent who interviewed Flynn. Even if Flynn’s lawyer can call Strzok’s impartiality into question, what about the other agent in the room?
FBI agent Peter Strzok was one of two FBI agents who interviewed Flynn, which took place on Jan. 24, at the White House, said several sources. The other FBI special agent, who interviewed Flynn, is described by sources as a field supervisor in the “Russian Squad, at the FBI’s Washington Field Office,” according to a former intelligence official, with knowledge of the interview…
The former U.S. intelligence official told this reporter, “with the recent revelation that Strzok was removed from the Special Counsel investigation for making anti-Trump text messages it seems likely that the accuracy and veracity of the 302 of Flynn’s interview as a whole should be reviewed and called into question.”
“The most logical thing to happen would be to call the other FBI Special Agent present during Flynn’s interview before the Grand Jury to recount his version,” the former intelligence official added…
The former U.S. intelligence official questioned, “how logical is it that Flynn is being charged for lying to an agent whose character and neutrality was called into question by the Special Counsel.”
Did Mueller inform Flynn and his lawyer privately after Strzok left the case why he had been pushed out? If Flynn knew that the agent who’d interviewed him was ousted due to perceived political bias but chose to plead anyway, that would make it harder for Flynn to challenge his deal now. Presumably if Flynn had known about Strzok’s bias sooner that detail would have leaked to the media via his lawyer, but I don’t know; maybe Flynn was so terrified about what Mueller might charge with him that he didn’t dare leak. Maybe he’s still so terrified about losing the sweetheart deal he got (Mueller didn’t even bother charging him with the slam-dunk FARA offenses that Paul Manafort was indicted for) that he won’t challenge his interview due to Strzok’s bias. Mueller seemingly has him over a barrel. Flynn’s in no position to get tough.
But wait. Why is Sean Hannity touting this news on his website then? In fact, why is Sean Hannity’s website breaking this news in the first place rather than, say, the NYT, which reported the reason Strzok was dismissed this weekend? Could it be that, just as Strzok’s bias is a political problem for Mueller, it’s also potentially a political solution for Trump?
— Drew McCoy (@_Drew_McCoy_) December 4, 2017
I think Drew’s exactly right. Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch is fast off the block to use the Hannity scoop for that very purpose:
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) December 4, 2017
Trump wants to pardon Flynn, not just for lying to the FBI but for everything, yet he knows it’ll look bad unless he can come up with some sort of fig leaf to justify it. Strzok’s bias is the fig leaf. The interview was the product of illicit political bias, therefore all of the information that came out of it was illicitly obtained, therefore all of Mueller’s leverage over Flynn was also illicitly obtained, therefore Flynn must be pardoned for all offenses. Trump’s going to claim that all of the criminal fruit of this poisonous tree is legally inedible. In all probability Hannity was pointed in this direction by the White House or its allies to get him to start beating the drum on Fox for Flynn to be pardoned. Once there’s a Republican groundswell, Trump will act. Granted, if Flynn is pardoned, that means he can be forced to testify by Mueller with no right to plead the Fifth and refuse to answer. But we’ve already crossed that bridge by Flynn agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel. He’s going to testify against people either way. Trump may as well earn his gratitude and hope that Flynn’s willing to, shall we say, stretch the truth on his behalf if and when he’s on the witness stand.
Here’s POTUS this morning expressing sympathy for Flynn’s plight.