President Donald Trump said Thursday that he would consider bringing Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, back into his administration in a different role.
Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to one count of lying to FBI agents during a Jan. 24, 2017 interview. However, documents released Wednesday fuel assertions from the president that Flynn was “tormented” by the FBI and that the bureau tried to “intentionally frame” him.
“I would certainly consider it, yeah. I think he’s a fine man,” Trump told reporters, without specifying which role he might give to Flynn. “I think it’s terrible what [the FBI] did to him.”
Trump added that he believes Flynn will be “fully exonerated” based on the emergence of new evidence in his criminal case.
“It looks to me like Flynn would be fully exonerated based on everything I see. I’m not a judge but I have a different type of power,” Trump told reporters Thursday.
The internal FBI documents turned over by the Justice Department on Wednesday show that the FBI concluded there were no more leads to follow in the Flynn probe nearly three weeks before Peter Strzok, then-head of the bureau’s counterintelligence operations, and another agent conducted the January 2017 interview.
“What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” an FBI official wrote, dating the notes Jan. 24, 2017, and signing with initials “EP,” reportedly standing for Edward William Priestap, then-FBI head of counterintelligence.
“If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ & have them decide. Or, if he initially lies, then we present him [redacted] & he admits it, document for DOJ, & let them decide how to address it.”
“If we’re seen as playing games, WH will be furious. Protect our institution by not playing games,” the note reads.
The notes were handed over to Flynn as a result of an ongoing review of his case by Jeffrey Jensen, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, who was directed in January to perform the review by Attorney General William Barr.
In January, Flynn had asked Judge Emmet Sullivan, who was presiding over the case, to allow him to withdraw his original guilty plea, saying he only entered it because his former lawyers hadn’t represented him effectively at the time.
What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2020
Trump blamed Flynn’s predicament on “dirty cops” and said the documents show Flynn, who was ousted from his position in February 2017, was a victim.
“They were trying to force him to lie,” Trump added.
“He’s in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration,” the president said Thursday.
The unsealing of the documents come after the president last month said that he was “strongly considering” pardoning Flynn.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence said during a trip to Indiana on Thursday that Flynn’s actions may have been unintentional.
“I’m deeply troubled by the revelations of what appeared to have been investigative abuse by officials in the Justice Department. And we’re going to continue to look into that very carefully,” Pence said.
“My respect for General Flynn personally for his service to the country is undiminished. And I am inclined more than ever to believe that what he communicated to me back during the transition leading to our inauguration, that was unintentional and not—and that he was not attempting to misrepresent facts,” he added.
Petr Svab and Reuters contributed to this report.