Last week we learned of some hand-written notes put down by FBI officials in advance of their meeting with then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The notes seemed to suggest the FBI was gauging its approach to Flynn based on the outcome they wanted to pursue. “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the official wrote. Those notes were the last straw for former FBI agent James Gagliano who wrote a piece for the Washington Examiner titled “Michael Flynn was railroaded by Comey’s FBI.”
The time has come to cease affording the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team generous benefit of the doubt. A steady stream of unflattering revelations, beginning with a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general into egregious FISA abuses last December, has relentlessly pounded the reputation of my former agency. Now, further irrefutable proof emerges that a small cabal of FBI headquarters decision-makers was hellbent on undoing a presidency.
I know it sounds strange to hear me make such an accusation. I’m the guy who long attempted to thread the needle, accounting for honest human frailties, trusting that mistakes should not always be chalked up to malice or sinister intent. Cautious skepticism was a default mindset that served me well across a quarter century as an FBI investigator. That condition failed me here because one thing is clear.
Michael Flynn got railroaded.
I looked over Gagliano’s record and he has been writing fairly conservative-friendly criticism in the last couple of years, but it is true that if you go back to 2017, he was taking a position somewhere in the middle. For instance, this piece for Fortune says Flynn’s guilty plea will reflect badly on him and President Trump but he warns progressives that this isn’t going to lead to Trump being marched out of the White House for violating the Logan Act:
The charges are related to two conversations that Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the president-elect’s transition period. It must be presumed that these conversations were conducted at the direction of the president-elect. There is nothing illegal or irregular about contacts with foreign governments during this timeframe. All incoming administrations are expected to begin to forge relationships in the international arena as feasible.
And yet, the “sins” that the general has been accused of, and subsequently pled guilty to, are more than mere peccadilloes. Flynn was charged with willingly and knowingly making false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations to FBI agents. This a serious charge. Over the course of a quarter-century career in the FBI, I saw charges like this applied cautiously and only in circumstances where evidence was abundant and “intent” was easily provable.
As you can see, Gagliano was still very much defending the honor of the FBI at the time. So what changed his mind about that? He says the notes suggest this was a set up:
The notes in question are handwritten and appear to outline the Crossfire Hurricane team’s objectives for the planned interview with Flynn at the White House, just days after the inauguration of President Trump. They are clearly initialed by then-FBI Assistant Director for the Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap. I know Bill from our overlapping assignments in the FBI’s New York office. He is an experienced, honorable, and well-respected lawman…
It almost appears as if Priestap is attempting to memorialize his own opposition to the Flynn ambush…
Since the FBI was already in possession of the transcript of Flynn’s telephone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, what exactly was to be gained by the interview? Nothing except the potential to jam him up and get him removed as national security adviser. It was never going to charge him for violations of the Logan Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Even Robert Mueller’s team could have done so. It passed.
Gagliano also points to some obvious funny business with the 302 forms related to Flynn’s interview. Strzok and Pientka were the agents who interviewed Flynn. Pientka took the notes but Strzok later rewrote the 302 with some help from Lisa Page who Gagliano notes, “was not present at the interview and was not an FBI agent.”
The other thing that convinced Galiano was the obvious difference in the way the FBI pursued the Clinton “matter” vs. the Flynn interview. Where the FBI went around the White House Counsel (Comey even bragged about it) to interview Flynn, Hillary was given the kid gloves treatment. He quotes Rep. Trey Gowdy who said Hillary, “had a medium-sized law firm in the room with her. They gave the questions to her lawyer before they interviewed her, and they most assuredly told her there’s a consequence for lying. None of which they did for Michael Flynn.”
Galiano also points to this Strzok-Page text exchange in which they discussed not being too aggressive with Hillary:
Page: “One more thing: She might be our next president. The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. You think she’s going to remember or care that it was more DOJ than FBI?”
Strzok: “I called Bill and relayed what we discussed. He agrees.”
Not at all how they approached Flynn. And given Strzok’s evident personal preference for Hillary over Trump, it’s hard to dismiss that as a factor in how the two cases were handled. Gagliano concludes, “No plausible explanation exists here other than rank partisan, political bias.”
Gagliano was interviewed yesterday by Matt Lewis. If you’re interested in hearing Gagliano’s opinion on this topic at more length, the first half hour of this is mostly him discussing it: