Must reading for readers who think this couldn’t happen in America.
The Vindication of Michael Flynn
Justice drops its prosecution with new evidence about the FBI.
The Justice Department dropped its case against Michael Flynn on Thursday, “with prejudice,” in a legal filing that should echo far beyond this tragedy of justice delayed. The latest evidence further undermines the credibility of James Comey’s FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller, and the entire “Russia collusion” investigation.
The retired Army general had initially pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017, when two agents interviewed him at the White House shortly after he took over as Donald Trump’s national security adviser. But he later reversed his plea as new information emerged that the FBI may have tried to entrap him.
The documents filed on Thursday in federal court vindicate the general’s reversal. Justice said the FBI’s interview of Mr. Flynn was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn,” and that the interview was not “conducted with a legitimate investigative basis.”
We recommend the filing for readers who think this couldn’t happen in America. The filing recounts how the FBI had concluded in late 2016 that there was no evidence that Mr. Flynn had colluded with Russia. But the FBI kept the investigation open after it received a transcript of Mr. Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Mr. Comey and his loyalists then set up Mr. Flynn in an interview despite having no legal basis. The documents show that Mr. Comey told his deputies not to inform the White House general counsel of the visit and not to tell the White House about his conversation with the ambassador. They also show that Mr. Comey worked around senior Justice officials, including Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who thought the White House should be informed. As he did with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Hillary Clinton’s emails, Mr. Comey acted as if he was a law unto himself.
At the time the agents admitted they did not think Mr. Flynn was lying to them. But as the Justice filing notes, without a legitimate investigative purpose, whether Mr. Flynn was lying was immaterial. He should never have been prosecuted.
Yet Mr. Mueller, who knew all this soon after becoming special counsel, pursued Mr. Flynn, threatening him and his son with ruin until he got the guilty plea. The prosecutor on the case, Brandon Van Grack, was part of Mr. Mueller’s team and consistently denied there was relevant material the government had not turned over to the defense.
But surely the lack of a legal predicate for the interview was exculpatory. Mr. Van Grack told the court Thursday he is withdrawing from the case, but an investigation is warranted to see if he lied to the court. Mr. Mueller’s reputation also stands self-besmirched, and the entire Russia collusion probe looks even more illegitimate and political.
All of this came to light after Attorney General Bill Barr assigned another U.S. Attorney, Jeffrey Jensen, to look at the Flynn case anew. The partisan press will portray this as a political decision done to please Mr. Trump. But Mr. Jensen is a long-time veteran of Justice and the FBI. He is not someone who would seek to damage those institutions for political purposes.
Mr. Jensen put it this way in a statement Thursday: “Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case. I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions and he agreed.”
Messrs. Jensen and Barr deserve credit for a brave decision that will not be popular with some prosecutors and certainly not with the Democratic media. But as the filing notes, the cause of justice is paramount, even after a guilty plea has been made, if the evidence demands a reversal.
There is still much we don’t know, and many Russia-related documents we still do not have, and we hope Mr. Barr will continue to make them public as he cleans up after one of the most shameful episodes in FBI and Justice Department history. For now, at least Michael Flynn can get his life and reputation back.