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    Posted: 30 Apr 2020 at 3:50pm

Trump calls Flynn case 'scam' after new docs released, but experts say they change little


by Stephen Loiaconi

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FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn arrives at federal court in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — More documents were released Thursday that attorneys for former national security adviser Michael Flynn say prove he was a victim of misconduct by prosecutors and investigators, but some legal experts argue the evidence so far suggests Flynn was merely subjected to the same treatment as many other criminal defendants who do not have friends in the Oval Office.

Records unsealed this week have added fuel to allegations that Flynn’s prosecution was driven by opposition to President Donald Trump rather than genuine concerns about national security. Experts say they are unlikely to have much impact on his legal proceedings, but the revelations have already been seized upon to advance his case politically.

Handwritten FBI Notes on M... by Gustavo-May Frias on Scribd

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“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning after several other tweets and retweets overnight, including a video Flynn posted of an American flag in the wind.

In another tweet, Trump—who fired Flynn three weeks into his presidency for lying—dismissed the case as a “scam” and suggested media outlets should “pay a price” for negative coverage of Flynn. His son Donald Trump Jr. went further, accusing FBI officials of treason and calling for them to be jailed.

President Trump said last month he was “strongly considering” a pardon for Flynn, and he has often railed against the FBI and Department of Justice leadership that was responsible for the investigation. He has framed the case as part of a broader “witch hunt” against his administration by top law enforcement officials, some of whom have since been disciplined or fired.

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Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to charges that he made false statements to FBI agents in an interview days after Trump took office about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador weeks earlier. He then provided extensive cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, but that cooperation agreement eventually collapsed.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” President Trump tweeted after Flynn entered his plea. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

Flynn’s supporters, including the president, now maintain he was railroaded into an unfair plea deal by corrupt investigators who set a perjury trap for him and his case should be dropped. His critics say he got off easy by facing one charge for lies he later admitted to and avoiding prosecution for potential Foreign Agent Registration Act violations over his work for the Turkish government.

.@CNN doesn’t want to speak about their persecution of General Michael Flynn & why they got the story so wrong. They, along with others, should pay a big price for what they have purposely done to this man & his family. They won’t even cover the big breaking news about this scam!

55.8K people are talking about this

Although prosecutors initially recommended Flynn face no prison time because of that cooperation, he has since hired new attorneys and sought to have his plea withdrawn or his charges dismissed. His current legal team, led by conservative commentator Sidney Powell, has accused the Department of Justice of withholding exculpatory evidence and pressuring Flynn to cooperate by threatening to prosecute his son.

Handwritten notes from the day before Flynn’s FBI interview unsealed Wednesday suggest investigators considered whether he would lie to them when questioned, and it raises the prospect that the purpose of interviewing him was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.” However, the notes also indicate investigators recognized the political gravity of the situation and planned to “protect our institution by not playing games.”

It is unclear from court filings who wrote the notes, but they appear to bear the initials of E.W. Priestap, a senior FBI official who was involved in the opening of the investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia the previous summer.

“The notes simply provide evidence that there were discussions of strategy around questioning Flynn, but these discussions appear to be pretty standard,” said Claire Finkelstein, director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at Penn Law.

Flynn Interview Documents by Fox News on Scribd

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President Trump’s supporters have often cast suspicion on Flynn’s FBI interview, which was ostensibly about potential violations of the Logan Act, a relatively obscure law that has never been used for criminal prosecution. Agents who questioned Flynn initially believed he was truthful, according to their notes, and he appeared to be aware his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak had been monitored.

"It's just absolutely appalling what these agents, and then special counsel operatives, did to General Flynn," Powell told Fox News Wednesday. "It's abuse of their authority at every turn."

In addition to the handwritten notes, the files unsealed Wednesday include two partially redacted email exchanges between FBI officials. In one, agent Peter Strzok—who was later fired by the FBI and has become a primary target of President Trump’s ire—and others discussed whether those questioning Flynn should inform him that lying to the FBI was a crime before the interview and what to do if he asked if he was under criminal investigation.

Investigators also debated whether to directly confront Flynn with evidence if he lied to them. Their report on the interview indicates they did not do so when he said he had not discussed sanctions imposed by the Obama administration with Kislyak.

JUST IN: New FLYNN documents show the FBI had drafted a document to formally close the case against him on 1/4.

But 20 minutes after it circulated, STRZOK and other agents put the brakes on it.

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Further documents released Thursday show Strzok circulated a draft of a memo that would have formally closed the case against Flynn for allegedly being an unregistered foreign agent in early January 2017, weeks before agents interviewed him, but Strzok was then told the case was still open. That memo states the FBI had sought “any derogatory information” on Flynn from other agencies but came up with very little that investigators deemed suspicious.

The documents were handed over to Flynn’s attorneys last week as the Department of Justice conducts an internal investigation of its handling of his case. In court filings, the lawyers called the evidence “stunning” and claimed it proves he was “framed by corrupt agents at the top of the FBI.”

The DOJ review of Flynn’s prosecution, headed by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen, has uncovered an unspecified number of additional documents that have been turned over to Flynn’s legal team. His previous lawyers have also been ordered to provide records to his current attorneys as they attempt to prove his guilty plea was the result of poor legal advice.

Earlier this year, District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn has an “extremely heavy burden” to demonstrate that he should be allowed to withdraw his plea. His sentencing has been delayed for months as lawyers argue over evidence and his attorneys attempt to build their case in the court of public opinion.

But the fact that these are ordinary tactics isn’t a substantive defense of the tactics themselves or the power that we’ve given to law enforcement in this country.

It should concern us that those who are politically aligned with the President see these as abuses, and those who oppose him don’t

It’s an uncomfortable reminder that harsh criminal tactics may be tolerated because they are usually employed against groups without political power

31 people are talking about this

More documents are likely forthcoming, but some say they have seen more than enough to believe Flynn has met the burden of proving his plea was unjust.

“These notes reek of criminal misconduct,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday. “One of the worst things that can happen in any democracy is for those who are in charge of the law to take it into their own hands for political purposes. I think that is what has happened here.”

In a letter to Attorney General William Barr Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, complained of “exculpatory” evidence being withheld and urged the DOJ to share all materials with Flynn’s attorneys and Congress. In a Fox Business interview Thursday, Grassley said he believes Flynn’s treatment by the FBI was “unconstitutional.”

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who testified for Republicans at Trump’s impeachment hearings, argued in an op-ed for The Hill that the notes and emails released Wednesday “offer us a chilling blueprint on how top FBI officials not only sought to entrap the former White House aide but sought to do so on blatantly unconstitutional and manufactured grounds.”

“This effort was not about protecting national security or learning critical intelligence. It was about bagging Flynn in the legal version of a canned trophy hunt,” Turley claimed.

Attorney General Barr needs to be complimented. He’s doing the right thing.

AG Barr has three goals I share:

* Restore trust.

* Hold people accountable who have engaged in misconduct.

*Right wrongs like General Flynn, and I believe eventually, George Papadopolous.

3,559 people are talking about this

However, other legal experts see little in the new documents or the spin from Flynn’s lawyers to justify claims of entrapment or to merit withdrawing his plea.

“I guess the basis for withdrawing the plea would be something like entrapment, but simply deciding to withhold information you have and asking a suspect questions and letting them answer freely without tipping your hand to information in your possession, that’s not entrapment,” Finkelstein said.

Ross Garber, an expert on political investigations at Tulane Law School, said it is highly unusual for a national security adviser to be the target of a criminal investigation, but the way Flynn was treated by the FBI is not uncommon for criminal defendants.

“The tactics used by the government are not dissimilar from those I’ve seen in many other cases,” Garber said. “Prosecutors and agents know the power of a 1001 charge [for making false statements to investigators]. It is easier to prove than many substantive offenses and provides the government leverage, which the government often capitalizes upon.”

Flynn Withdrawal by Washington Examiner on Scribd

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According to Carissa Byrne Hessick, a criminal law professor at the University of North Carolina, nothing Flynn’s attorneys have unearthed so far changes what he said to the FBI or the fact that he previously acknowledged making false statements.

“Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI,” Hessick said. “There is no credible dispute that he lied. And all of the claims about entrapment or law enforcement motives are either wrong as a matter of law or just legally irrelevant.”

President Trump told reporters Thursday Flynn was a victim of “dirty cops” and is “in the process of being exonerated.” What happens next is hard to predict, Finkelstein said. While Trump has hinted at pardons for several associates and has wiped out convictions for other political allies, he has not yet granted clemency to anyone prosecuted in the Mueller probe—a move that would surely provoke a political firestorm.

“The tweeting suggests maybe they are warming up for a pardon and that’s why they’re trying to spin this evidence as suggestive of a deep state conspiracy, but so far, he has not crossed that line into pardoning individuals who may have been directly involved in improper contacts with the Russians,” Finkelstein said.

The Flynn case is one of several involving former aides and allies of President Trump that he claims were handled unfairly by corrupt officials. He also tweeted Thursday about the prosecution of Roger Stone, complaining about alleged juror bias and heavy-handed law enforcement tactics, though a judge recently rejected Stone’s demand for a new trial.

Does anybody really believe that Roger Stone, a man whose house was raided early in the morning by 29 gun toting FBI Agents (with Fake News @CNN closely in toe), was treated fairly. How about the jury forewoman with her unannounced hatred & bias. Same scammers as General Flynn!

39.1K people are talking about this

The DOJ inspector general found numerous errors and omissions in applications for surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A later audit uncovered similar errors and violations of procedures in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant applications in other cases unrelated to the president’s campaign, suggesting more systemic problems.

Criminal justice reform advocates say the Flynn case presents a similar scenario. There may be an argument to be made that the FBI’s use of false statement charges and other means to pressure suspects into guilty pleas are unfair and improper, but some are skeptical President Trump’s concerns extend beyond investigations of his political allies.

“It would be troubling if the president pardoned Flynn for something that law enforcement officers have done to thousands of other people convicted in federal court,” Hessick said. “What is more, if President Trump doesn’t like the tactics that the FBI uses, then he can direct Attorney General Barr to issue a memo to federal law enforcement instructing them to act differently.”

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