Has John Durham gotten close to concluding his probes into Operation Crossfire Hurricane and the succeeding special-counsel probe? It certainly seems that the pace of revelations about the conduct of both has picked up over the last couple of days. Late last night, a summary filed in support of the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss charges against Michael Flynn contained a couple of new bombshells about both. One FBI agent involved in all three probes described the case against Flynn as “not great,” and that Robert Mueller and his team had a “get Trump” attitude in a case that never materialized.
Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein summarize the testimony of Agent William Barnett, who served at times in all of those phases:
A 13-page summary of an interview with Flynn case agent William Barnett, made public in a court filing by prosecutors just before midnight Thursday, also revealed that the veteran agent harbored deep doubts and skepticism about the merits of the investigation into Flynn’s potential ties with Russia — at least in its early stages — and questioned the Mueller team’s tactics in the broader probe of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians, known as Crossfire Hurricane.
Though Barnett said he repeatedly expressed those doubts to colleagues and superiors — and says he feared groupthink and a “get Trump” attitude was driving the investigation forward — he continued to be included in the work of Mueller’s attorneys during sensitive interviews.
The interview report says that while Barnett viewed the investigative steps taken as “legally justified,” the so-called predication — or factual basis — for the probe into Flynn was “not great.” Barnett said that his view of the overall Trump-Russia probe was that it was based on “supposition upon supposition.”
The reason for filing this information with the court is that Judge Emmet Sullivan still wants to hear arguments on the motion to dismiss. This might not have been filed publicly at all if the DC Circuit Court of Appeals hadn’t overturned Judge Neomi Rao’s writ of mandamus ordering a dismissal in its en banc decision last month. As it happens, though, Barnett was one of the key agents working the “Operation Razor” case against Flynn, and insisted all along that there was no case. He wanted to conduct a straight-up interview with Flynn after the election to settle the matter and close the case, a request that Barnett says was rejected.
Then something curious happened in early January 2017, which led to Barnett being cut out of the loop:
Barnett never did conclude, even after seeing the reports from the agents who conducted the Flynn interview, that he lied to cover up any connection or collusion with Russia. At worst, Barnett thought, Flynn misled agents to protect his new job, but there was no predicate for an investigation and therefore no crime.
That’s a significant basis for the DoJ’s contention that the Flynn case should never have been brought in the first place, a key part of their motion to dismiss even with Flynn’s previous guilty plea. However, the DoJ doesn’t stop there in its filing. It goes on to discuss Barnett’s view of the overall purpose of Crossfire Hurricane, especially once it became a special-counsel probe, which Barnett worked as well:
And that, Barnett says, is why Flynn got prosecuted in the first place:
Nor was Barnett the only FBI agent in these investigations that harbored considerable doubt about the directions in which they were going. The Federalist highlights text exchanges in new filings by Sidney Powell in the same court case in which they vented their skepticism:
“I’m tellying [sic] man, if this thing ever gets FOIA’d, there are going to be some tough questions asked,” one agent wrote. “[A]nd a great deal of those will be related to Brian having a scope way outside the boundaries of logic[.]”
“[REDACTED] is one of the worst offenders of the rabbit holes and conspiracy theories,” an agent texted. “This guy traveled with that guy, who put down 3rd guy as his visa sponsor. 3rd guy lives near a navy base, therefore…[.]” …
The explosive new text messages also show agents believed the investigation was being run by FBI officials who were in the tank for Hillary Clinton.
“[D]oing all this election research – I think some of these guys want a [C]linton presidency,” one agent wrote on Aug. 11, shortly after the FBI opened the Crossfire Hurricane investigation against Trump.
And then there’s this about Operation Razor:
“So razor is going to stay open???” an agent wrote on Jan. 5.
“[Y]ep,” another FBI agent responded. “[C]rimes report being drafted.”
“F,” the first agent wrote back.
“[W]hat’s the word on how [Obama’s] briefing went?” one agent asked, referring to the Jan. 5 meeting.
“Dont know but people here are scrambling for info to support certain things and its a mad house,” an FBI agent responded.
“[J]esus,” an agent wrote back. “[T]rump was right. [S]till not put together….why do we do this to ourselves. [W]hat is wrong with these people[?]?
A better question would be why it’s taken this long to get this information out to the public. At some point, Sullivan may end up being sorry he asked — and so will a number of former FBI and special counsel leaders, too.
Update: Our colleague Shipwreckedcrew, a former federal prosecutor, has more at RedState on these revelations and what they mean:
Jeannie Rhee was a partner of Robert Mueller at the WilmerHale law firm and came to the SCO when Mueller was named. Barnett, being an experienced and highly regarded agent, was assigned to work on the SCO investigation. Jeannie Rhee was a political campaign donor to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and she had represented Hillary Clinton, Ben Rhodes, and the Clinton Foundation in various matters. During an early briefing of Rhee and other SCO personnel on Razor and other aspects of Crossfire Hurricane, Barnett started to move on from Razor after only a few comments when Rhee stopped him. She wanted to “drill down” on more details about Flynn and his connections to Russia. Barnett got the strong feeling that Rhee was obsessed with Gen. Flynn and Barnett thought she had an agenda. When Rhee said she looked forward to working with him, Barnett told her they would not be working together as “he wanted nothing to do with the Razor investigation.”
The final comment is about Andrew Weissmann. Barnett said it always seemed like someone at the SCO had a story about how some particular episode was going to be proven out and establish the collusion between Trump and the Russians, but every time the claimed episode ended up not being true or leading only to a dead end. He recalled Weissmann claiming that evidence about a meeting on a yacht off Greece would be the key to proving the quid pro quo between Trump and the Russians, only to have the story about the yacht turn out to not be substantiated.
In my view, this interview confirms that US Attorney Jensen is investigating the conduct of the members of the Special Counsel’s Office. We are now seeing only the very beginning of what might still be coming in the days and weeks ahead.