Just how did the Department of Justice issue such a strong reversal in the prosecution of Michael Flynn? CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge sat down with Attorney General William Barr as Democrats [nominally] on Capitol Hill demanded his resignation for dropping the charges. In an interview that will air more fully tonight, Barr declares that the FBI concocted a perjury trap to extend an illegitimate counterintelligence operation, and that the orders to do so came from the very top of the FBI.
As for claims that he is acting as Donald Trump’s hatchet man, Barr reminds Herridge that he told Congress from the start that he would conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of Operation Crossfire Hurricane. “I’m doing the law’s bidding,” rather than Trump’s bidding, Barr says. “I’m doing my duty under the law, as I see it.”
This is one particular episode, but we view it as part of a number of related acts. And we’re looking at the whole pattern of conduct.
The whole pattern of conduct before?
Yeah, the election.
After the election? Okay. You talk about the importance of timing in this decision. What was the evidence that helped you decide this issue?
I think a very important evidence here was that this was not a bona fide counterintelligence investigation – was that they were closing the investigation in December. They started that process. And on January 4th, they were closing it.
And that when they heard about the phone call, which is – the FBI had the transcripts too – there’s 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 know, “You listen, you listen to everything. You know, you know what was said.”
So there was no mystery about the call. But they initially tried some theories of how they 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 express purpose of trying to catch, lay a perjury trap for General Flynn.
They didn’t warn him, the way we usually would be required by the Department. They bypassed the Justice Department. They bypassed the protocols at the White House and so forth. These were things that persuaded me that there was not a legitimate counterintelligence investigation going on.
The clip above then cuts to a discussion about consequences for those involved in the perjury trap, but the CBS transcript of the full interview has an explosive statement from Barr that sets the context for Herridge’s question:
Who at the FBI was driving this?
Well, this particular episode, it looks like the impetus came from the seventh floor.
The seventh floor is Director Comey.
I believe it’s Director Comey and the deputy’s office.
That would be Comey and Andrew McCabe, the same two people who have gone on to be celebrated by the media as martyrs for law enforcement. Their involvement in the circumstances that produced the basis for Flynn’s prosecution remains part of John Durham’s broader probe into Crossfire Hurricane, but they aren’t the only FBI officials who might get caught in that investigation. At RealClearInvestigations, Mark Hemingway counts all the ways this process got corrupted in order to press charges against the national security director. It’s a bit too detailed to excerpt, but RCI sent these bullet points for consideration:
- The FBI took three weeks, not the requisite five days, to deliberate on and compose Flynn’s 302 form.
- Peter Strzok, the top agent who interviewed Flynn, took an unusual role in producing the 302, which would normally be the job of the other agent present, Joe Pientka.
- In one text to his FBI lover Lisa Page, Strzok tells her he is heavily editing Pientka’s 302 form to the point he’s “trying not to completely re-write” it.
- Page, who did not attend the interview, reviewed the 302 form and made editing suggestions. FBI personnel not present at interviews aren’t supposed to edit 302s.
- During the process, Page texted Strzok, “Is Andy good with the 302?” – presumably referring to FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
- Former special agent Thomas Baker said it was “not normal and suspicious” that it took three weeks for Pientka’s 302 form to be filed.
- Baker: ”We never changed an agent’s 302. … So for us to read … that Peter Strzok said he virtually rewrote the whole thing – it damned them with their own words.”
- James Gagliano, retired 25-year veteran of the FBI: “For [Strzok] to send that 302 to Lisa Page, a non-badge wearing, non-credential-having FBI agent is unconscionable.”
- Hovering over all the questions about what happened with Flynn’s 302 is the silence of Pientka, the other agent.
Be sure to read the whole thing. Put together, it’s clear that something stinks about the FBI’s targeting of Flynn. And put together with all of the errors, omissions, and lies in pursuit of the FISA warrant on Carter Page, the picture of a rogue and political FBI comes into much sharper focus. James Comey has to answer for that — and it’s William Barr’s job to make sure he does.
Finally, as my friend Andrew C. McCarthy argued on my show yesterday, this should put an end to the 302 process at the FBI. This abuse of that process would never have worked if the FBI was required to do what all other law enforcement agents have done for decades — record the audio of their interviews. The risk of manipulation is so great that it’s amazing that Congress hasn’t stepped in yet to demand it, but Barr should take this opportunity to end the 302 process. Until they do, or maybe even after they do, it behooves anyone who sits down for an interview with FBI agents to record those conversations for themselves. This episode has made it quite clear that the FBI can abuse that 302 process for their open purposes without much consequence or oversight.