This column will be starting a little differently. That’s because I will have to make a major correction to the record.
I’ve been claiming in columns and social media posts for some time now that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was charged with perjury and that he pleaded guilty to one count of perjury.
This is, in fact, not correct. The truth is that Flynn pleaded guilty to a charge of violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, which is a statute that makes it illegal to make false statements to FBI officials.
Flynn supposedly made at least one false statement to FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joseph Pientka during an informal interview at the White House that took place on Jan. 24, 2017. Flynn didn’t have his lawyer present and was never told by the agents that anything he said in that interview could be used to charge him with a crime.
We’ve already learned from what’s been declassified and made public that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe noted, in a memo he wrote, that he called Flynn to set up the interview and had strongly suggested to Flynn that since it was just an informal interview, there was no reason to have a lawyer present.
Because this wasn’t a formal proceeding, and Flynn was never placed under oath, he doesn’t qualify for a perjury charge.
Here’s the actual plea deal that Flynn was offered, to which he pleaded guilty: https://www.justice.gov/file/1015121/download. And here’s a link to the full text of 18 U.S.C. 1001: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1001
So it was inaccurate for me to say that Flynn was charged with perjury and that he pleaded guilty to having committed perjury. I apologize for that error and will try to do better in my future research.
While Flynn didn’t commit perjury, it’s been looking increasingly likely that fired and disgraced former FBI agent Strzok certainly did, and in multiple venues. Under oath, Strzok appears to have perjured himself to congressional investigators in both open and closed sessions, and also while being questioned by investigators from the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general’s office.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s long-awaited report on the potential DOJ–FBI FISA abuse—a key part of the massive scandal we refer to as “Spygate”—is going to show in exhaustive detail just what false statements Strzok has given while under oath.
In the latest filing in the Flynn case, Flynn’s new defense counsel, Sidney Powell, is alleging that the prosecution team under special counsel Robert Mueller deliberately hid from Flynn’s former defense team key evidence that would’ve destroyed the credibility of the government’s primary witness, upon whose statements the entire case against Flynn was constructed.
That key witness is undoubtedly Strzok.
Powell appears to claim that while Mueller’s team was using Strzok as the key witness to drive a case to prosecute Flynn, they were hiding the fact that Strzok himself was under investigation by Horowitz.
The Mueller special counsel office made its indictment of Flynn, for his supposed false statements to FBI officials, public in late November 2017. The date on the charging document is Nov. 30, 2017.
Flynn pleaded guilty to this charge on Dec. 1, 2017, before District Judge Rudolph Contreras, exactly one day after the plea agreement was proffered by the Mueller prosecution team.
Recall what had already happened earlier that year. Former FBI Director James Comey had been fired on May 9, 2017, which led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel on May 17, 2017, and the formation of his investigative team. Among the members of that team were Strzok and his mistress, then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
While digging into how the FBI had conducted itself in its handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation (codenamed “Midyear Exam”), Horowitz discovered thousands of text messages between Strzok and Page. Not only did these messages reveal an improper relationship, but they also revealed political bias and several other issues, not the least of which were discussions between the lovers about attempting to influence Contreras, the judge who ended up handling the Flynn case.
Following the discovery of the text messages, Strzok was placed in the FBI’s Human Resources Department, where he spun his wheels for almost a year before giving a very contentious public hearing before congressional committees in July 2018, after which he was fired in early August on the recommendation of Horowitz.
But by November 2017, as it was preparing to launch its case against Flynn, Mueller’s special counsel office, and Mueller himself, had to have been aware that the key witness they were about to use to drive the prosecution of Flynn for making false statements was himself under investigation for multiple issues.
Having gotten Flynn to plead guilty using Strzok’s testimony against him, were the Mueller prosecutors hiding evidence from the defense that showed they were aware Strzok had serious credibility issues? Would Flynn have entered a plea of guilty if he and his defense lawyers had known of such evidence?
Subsequent events, such as Strzok’s being fired from the FBI for showing blatant political bias in the performance of his job, discussing influencing a judge, as well as being right in the middle of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election must have raised some questions about Strzok’s credibility as a witness against Flynn.
Horowitz’s FISA abuse report is rumored to be coming any day now, since his investigation is said to have completed. What if it turns out that Horowitz makes criminal referrals to Attorney General William Barr as a result of his investigation, and one of these referrals is of Strzok for perjury?
You can bet Powell will waste no time in bringing that to District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s attention.
Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Twitter @drawandstrike.