Political Editors / Feb. 15, 2018

The FBI Flip-Flop on Flynn

James Comey originally briefed lawmakers that Flynn had not lied to FBI; what changed?

An interesting and rather confusing story has recently emerged surrounding Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and his guilty plea of making false statements to the FBI during a Jan. 24, 2017 meeting at the White House. This meeting prompted a Washington Post story which reported that the “interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy,” because “lying to the FBI is a felony offense.” The following month, former FBI Director James Comey was questioned by Congress as to whether the report was accurate on Flynn having lied. Comey assured lawmakers that the two FBI agents who questioned Flynn believed that he had been honest and forthcoming and had not lied to them, nor did they believe any possible inaccuracies on his part to be intentional. Sources claim that after receiving Comey’s answer lawmakers came away with the understanding that Flynn would not be charged with a crime pertaining to that Jan. 24 interview.

Nine months later and Robert Mueller’s Trump/Russia special investigation charges Flynn with lying to the FBI, to which he pleads guilty. What’s going on here? What changed from the FBI’s perspective on Flynn between March 2017 and December 2017? This change has left lawmakers who had been briefed by Comey “baffled by the turn of events.”

Recall that directly after the election concerns mounted regarding Russian election interference, and news had leaked of Flynn having communicated with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016. At the time Vice President Mike Pence denied that Flynn had talked sanctions with Kislyak, telling CBS, “[Flynn and Kislyak] did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

And regarding that Jan. 24th meeting, it is being reported that the White House had not been informed of the interview ahead of time, nor were they under the impression that it was over a potentially criminal matter; Flynn didn’t even have a lawyer present. It was only later that acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the White House that Flynn was suspected of having run afoul of the seldom-used Logan Act. It wasn’t long after this that Flynn was fired for having lied to Pence, who had as a result misled the American public regarding Flynn.

Why did the FBI seemingly change its view on the Flynn Jan. 24 interview after Comey told lawmakers he did not mislead them? What role did Yates play in getting Flynn fired? What does Mueller have on Flynn in order to convince him to plead guilty to lying to the FBI? There’s a long way to go before all this is sorted out, and there are sure to be questions that are never answered.

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