(CNN) Michael Flynn’s attorneys made public on Wednesday a handwritten note from Bill Priestap, the then-counterintelligence director at the FBI, that mused how agents should approach a critical interview with President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser in the White House in January 2018.
“What’s our goal? Truth / Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired? ” Priestap wrote. “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. “
Lawyers for Flynn, who pleaded guilty late in to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador, said they believe the document along with others support their accusations of investigative misconduct. It’s now part of their effort in court to try to exonerate Flynn, and part of their public relations push for a presidential pardon for Flynn.
The development on Wednesday night again thrust Flynn’s long-simmering criminal case into the spotlight, with several prominent Republicans who’ve attacked the Mueller investigation, including Sen, Lindsey Graham and even Trump himself, spreading it on Twitter.
“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!”
- Trump Tweet Thursday morning.
But others have questioned their significance.
The documents turned over to Flynn’s lawyers are the first public results of a reexamination requested by Attorney General William Barr, and they represent a more complicated position for the department than what it’s previously said in court.
They also provide an unusual assist to the Flynn defense team that could serve to undermine the department’s own case, one of the major accomplishments of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
While Flynn’s legal team has alleged the Justice Department and FBI wrongfully targeted Flynn, the Justice Department in court has defended the handling of the case.
But Barr also ordered St. Louis US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen to review Flynn’s case and plea deal in recent months.
Jensen gave the Priestap note and other documents about FBI interactions to Flynn’s team within the past week.
Priestap also noted on the same piece of paper, “If we’re seen as playing games, WH (White House) will be furious. Protect our institution by not playing games.”
CNN has sought comment from a lawyer for Priestap. He is not identified in the documents, but the handwritten note bears the initials “EP” and two sources confirmed on Friday the note was his.
Greg Brower, a former US attorney and the FBI’s chief congressional liaison until , said that without the context around the notes, it’s hard to assign any deeper meaning to them.
“To the extent this is being advertised as evidence of something nefarious, I certainly don’t see it in that way,” Brower said. “I don’t know what this means and I don’t know that it’s important at all.”
Flynn’s attorneys, who are trying to unravel his guilty plea, submitted the January 2018 Priestap note to a judge along with three emails from former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that discuss whether and how to warn Flynn about lying during the interview.
Flynn was serving as Trump’s national security adviser at the time and previously revealed records have shown agents discussed what to do if Flynn lied to them about his interactions during the Trump campaign with the Russian ambassador. He pleaded guilty in late to lying to the federal agents . He has not yet been sentenced.
Flynn’s lies about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak prompted his exit from the White House less than a month later. The situation eventually spiraled into the President firing then-FBI Director James Comey after he pressured Comey to go easy on Flynn, which became a crucial part of the Mueller investigation.
With his plea deal, Flynn became a major cooperator with Mueller, telling investigators about key moments before Trump became President and about potential attempts by Trump and those around him to obstruct the Russia investigation.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with reaction and comment from the President.
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