Two top Republicans of the House Judiciary Committee on May 4 requested FBI Director Christopher Wray to “immediately review” his agency’s actions in its investigation of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
The two congressmen also sought to question two individuals, former FBI head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap and FBI agent Joe Pientka, about their actions related to the retired three-star U.S. Army general.
“We write to request that you immediately review the actions of the FBI in targeting LTG Flynn,” Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mike Johnson (R-La.) wrote in a letter to Wray (pdf). “The American people continue to learn troubling details about the politicization and misconduct at the highest levels of the FBI during the Obama-Biden administration.”
Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, and Johnson, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, gave Wray a deadline of May 18 to provide the information they requested and to facilitate the interviews with Priestap and Pientka.
They also asked Wray to explain when he “personally first learned of the FBI’s misconduct with respect to LTG Flynn,” explain “why the Committee and the American public are learning of the FBI’s misconduct with respect to LTG Flynn from court filings rather than from [Wray],” and explain “whether [Wray] or any other member of the FBI’s senior leadership prevented or delayed the disclosure of additional exculpatory information to LTG Flynn and his legal team.”
The Republican congressmen noted in their letter to Wray that FBI documents unsealed on April 29 showed that “the FBI had apparently sought to set a perjury trap for LTG Flynn during an interview on Jan. 24, 2017.”
Jordan and Johnson pointed out that part of the unsealed documents showed a handwritten note dated Jan. 24, 2017, and reportedly written by Bill Priestap, in which Priestap had asked whether the FBI’s goal in interviewing Flynn was to seek the truth or to catch Flynn in a lie. “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to—get him [Flynn] to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the note read.
Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to one count of lying to FBI agents during the interview on Jan. 24, 2017. The interview was conducted by Peter Strzok, who was at the time the FBI head of counterintelligence operations, and another FBI agent, whom The Epoch Times and other media have identified as Joe Pientka.
The interview had focused on Flynn’s phone calls with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak in 2016. Flynn in his guilty plea said that he made false statements about a conversation he had with Kislyak. In late January, Flynn formally asked the judge overseeing the sentencing to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea.
The recently unsealed FBI documents also showed that on Jan. 4, 2017—nearly three weeks prior to the Jan. 24, 2017, interview with Flynn—the FBI’s Washington field office had concluded there were no more leads to follow and that the FBI should close the Flynn probe, Jordan and Johnson noted in their letter.
But Strzok urged the office to keep the Flynn probe open and noted that “the FBI’s senior leadership on the ‘seventh floor’ was ‘involved,'” the congressmen wrote in their letter, citing internal FBI text messages as seen in documents filed in a federal court on April 30.
The congressmen wrote, citing handwritten notes, that “the FBI’s goal was either getting LTG Flynn to admit to violating the Logan Act or to lie about the conversation so that he could be prosecuted or fired.”
FBI officials had developed a theory that Flynn broke the Logan Act by conveying to Kislyak the positions of the incoming administration on several diplomatic issues—including new sanctions that would see the expulsion of Russian diplomats and a United Nations vote on Israeli settlements.
The 1799 Logan Act prohibits private U.S. citizens from conducting diplomacy on their own with countries that the United States has a dispute with. Nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted for violating the law. It was Flynn’s job, as part of Trump’s transition team, to establish relations with foreign officials.
“The FBI ignored protocol to confront LTG Flynn about a potential violation of an obscure and rarely charged offense, with the real goal of forcing LTG Flynn’s resignation or prosecution,” Jordan and Johnson wrote, referring to the Logan Act.
“The FBI pursued LTG Flynn despite knowing that he was not a Russian agent and even after the FBI became aware that a central piece of evidence of alleged Russia collusion—the so-called Steele dossier—was based on Russian disinformation.”
Declassified information in early April on the Steele dossier showed that a portion of the dossier likely was the product of a Russian disinformation campaign, and that the FBI was aware that such disinformation may have compromised the dossier.
Petr Svab contributed to this report.