Fox News’s Bret Baier: “Did you tell lawmakers that FBI agents didn’t believe former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was lying intentionally to investigators?”
Former FBI Director James B. Comey: “No … .And I saw that in the media. I don’t know what — maybe someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that and didn’t say that.”
— exchange on “Special Report with Bret Baier,” April 26, 2018
We’re going to explore a curiosity about the investigation in the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia. A central figure is Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser who was fired on Feb. 13, 2017, in the opening weeks of the administration after he supposedly misled Vice President Pence about his conversation with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. (The whole story can be seen in our compelling video above.)
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III secured Flynn’s guilty plea to lying to FBI agents who on Jan. 24 had interviewed him about his conversations with Kislyak. Flynn spoke to the agents without a lawyer present. One of the agents was Peter Strzok, who was later removed from the Mueller investigation because of anti-Trump animus discovered in his texts.
U.S. officials had become aware of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations because of intelligence monitoring of Kislyak.
Flynn’s plea agreement states that he made “materially false statements and omissions” during the FBI interview, specifically that he did not ask Kislyak to refrain from responding to sanctions imposed by outgoing president Barack Obama because of Russian interference in the U.S. election. He also falsely described another conversation with Kislyak, saying he asked only how Russia would vote on a resolution critical of Israel, when in fact he asked Russia to vote against or delay the resolution.
It sounds pretty damning. But here’s the rub: There is evidence that the FBI agents thought Flynn was truthful when they interviewed him. Let’s explore.
When Comey was on his book tour, Baier asked him directly whether he told lawmakers that the agents did not think Flynn was lying intentionally. He said “maybe someone misunderstood” what he said, but he “didn’t say that.”
Comey was speaking a year later and without the benefit of notes or a transcript. As we have often noted, contemporaneous notes should often outweigh after-the-fact memories because they were written at the time. That’s what makes Comey’s memos of