The 2nd FBI agent who, along with Peter Strzok, interviewed Michael Flynn about contacts with Russia’s ambassador is willing to testify to what he heard. Journalist Sara Carter reports Special Agent Joe Pientka is prepared to offer his impressions of whether or not Flynn was honest and forthcoming in his interview:
Pientka, who has never spoken to a journalist, according to several sources with knowledge, is expected to speak to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee if subpoenaed to discuss the circumstances regarding his role in the investigation into Flynn and the interview that he was a part of at the White House. Highly classified information regarding Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak was leaked to columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post in January, 2017 which spurred the controversy around Flynn and eventually led to his firing in February, 2017.
It’s this reporters understanding that Pientka will account for what Flynn said in the interview and will give context to the FBI’s accusation that he lied during the interview. If asked, Pientka will also give his personal opinion as to whether or not that was actually the case. He will also discuss how forthcoming Flynn was about very specific sensitive information that Flynn could not have possibly known the investigators already knew, which may give additional insight into Flynn’s veracity and willingness to tell the truth.
Pientka, however, will only testify about the circumstances regarding the Flynn interview and the issues that pertain to that interview, according to two sources with knowledge. There is no reason to believe that Pientka has any information on Comey’s role in the Trump Russia investigations but wants the opportunity to “state the truth” about what has been said about Flynn, said a source with direct knowledge.
Carter is framing this very carefully such that nothing too specific is being attributed to Pientka. However, the implication of that middle paragraph is that Pientka felt Flynn appeared forthcoming during the interview, i.e. he brought up facts that he had no way of knowing the FBI agents already knew about. That suggests he was telling the truth.
Why is this important?
As I pointed out earlier this month, there’s an ongoing disagreement between congressional Republicans and former FBI Director James Comey over what Comey told Members of Congress about that FBI interview with Flynn. The House Intelligence Committee says Comey told the House in a briefing last year “the agents…discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them.” That comes from a transcript of the briefing. Earlier this month, Sen. Grassley sent a letter which said Comey told Senators the same thing at a separate briefing. The Senate briefing was not transcribed but there was a law enforcement officer there taking notes. His notes indicated that Comey said the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn, “saw nothing that led them to believe [he was] lying.”
More recently, as part of his book tour media blitz, Comey has claimed that was all a misunderstanding of some kind. “I said something that people misunderstood, I don’t remember even intending to say that. So, my recollection is I never said that to anybody,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. He said something nearly identical to Fox News’ Bret Baier.
So the obvious way to clarify what the agents believed is to ask the agents. I’m not sure anyone would believe what Peter Strzok had to say at this point. I know I wouldn’t. But as mentioned above, Special Agent Pientka has never spoken to a reporter but is willing to testify if asked to what he saw. That might not settle the issue of whether Flynn misled the FBI but it could settle the issue of what the FBI agents believed at the time and help settle the issue of whether or not Comey repeated that to the House and Senate.