Attorney General William Barr said the decision to drop the criminal case against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn came because there wasn’t a legitimate probe happening when FBI agents went to interview Flynn at the White House in early 2017.
Flynn initially pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI but recently moved to withdraw the plea. The Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to dismiss the case Thursday after a slew of new information came out casting doubt on the charge.
Prosecutors need a false statement, or a lie, and materiality to a legitimate investigation, Barr said.
“It’s on the question of materiality that we feel really that a crime cannot be established here because there was not, in our view, a legitimate investigation going on,” the head of the DOJ said in an interview with CBS.
“They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage, based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call he made as a member of the transition.”
Flynn was speaking to a number of foreign officials as he and other members of then-president elect Donald Trump prepared to transition into the White House. He spoke over the phone with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak in late 2016.
Obama administration officials claimed the conversation might have violated the Logan Act, a centuries-old law that has never been successfully prosecuted.
But Timothy Shea, interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said in the motion to dismiss that the interview of Flynn “was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn—a no longer justifiably predicated investigation that the FBI had, in the Bureau’s own words, prepared to close because it had yielded an ‘absence of any derogatory information.”
Documents released in recent days pertaining to the case included handwritten notes from an FBI official about the motivation to question Flynn and texts from an FBI agent showing he scrambled to keep the probe open when it was about to be closed. The agent, Peter Strzok, was fired in 2018.
“As new information just became available that has a bearing on whether there was a legitimate investigation, that requires us, our duty, we think is to dismiss the case,” Barr said.
Does new evidence show the counterintelligence case against Flynn was left open to lay a trap for him for lying?” asked CBS News’ Catherine Herridge late Thursday. “Yes. Essentially,” Barr responded.
There was “nothing wrong” with Flynn’s call with Kislyak, Barr stressed.
“In fact, it was laudable,” contained “nothing inconsistent with the Obama administration’s policies, and … was in U.S. interests,” the attorney general said.
“He was saying to the Russians, you know, “Don’t escalate.” And they asked him if he remembered saying that, and he said he didn’t remember that.”
Barr said that he’s focused on restoring an equal standard of justice in the United States and that standard required dismissing the charges against Flynn.
Petr Savb contributed to this report.