The interview report says that while Barnett saw the investigative steps as “legally justified”, the so-called predication – or factual basis – for the investigation of Flynn was “not great”. Barnett said his view of the entire Trump-Russia probe was that it was based on “guess upon guess”.
The official publication of such open assessments within a federal investigative team is extremely rare, although it is now common practice in connection with the Flynn case.
In delivering the Barnett interview to U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, prosecutors said that Barnett’s report underpins the highly unusual and controversial decision that Attorney General William Barr made in May to abandon the false testimony charge , for which Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 for Mueller’s office.
The publication of Barnett’s interview, conducted by DOJ attorneys on Sept. 17, suggests the division is still actively investigating the roots of the Flynn probe ahead of a hearing on Tuesday at which Sullivan’s arguments for and against Department’s request should be heard Drop the case.
With both the government and Flynn asking for the case to be dismissed, a former judge, who Sullivan made a friend of the court, is to advocate upholding Flynn’s guilty plea and convicting him on the charges.
In late 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his December 2016 calls to the then Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. After working for over a year with Mueller, who took on the FBI’s Russia investigation after Trump fired the bureau’s director, James Comey, in May 2017, Flynn reversed course, accusing the FBI and the Justice Department of the monstrous Wrongdoing to set aside admission of guilt
When Barr essentially backed these efforts in May, Justice Department and Capitol Hill Democrats veterans condemned the move as a politically motivated attempt by Barr to protect a presidential ally and discredit a probe that Trump has long termed a “witch hunt” and ” Coup.”
The interview summary itself is a series of contradictions. Although Barnett expressed deep doubts about the motivations of some of his colleagues, he ultimately agreed that Flynn was lying to the FBI. He also stated that he found the Crossfire Hurricane team’s other investigations to be meritorious, although he often suggested more innocuous theories about the actions Trump and his team were taking when other agents tended to see them in a more incriminating light.
Barnett also said that Flynn Mueller’s team said during a meeting following his plea that Trump may have known about his interactions with Kislyak. However, Barnett attributed this to Flynn, who told the agents what they wanted to hear and that he turned back when Barnett urged him to clarify.
“During an interview with Flynn … one of the interviewers asked a series of questions, including one in which Flynn’s response suggested that Trump was aware of this [redacted] between Flynn and the Russian ambassador, ”says the summary. “Barnett believed that Flynn’s response was an effort to tell the interviewers what they wanted to hear. Barnett had to ask Flynn the clarifying question, who then clearly stated that Trump was unaware of it [redacted.]”
Barnett also stated that he had not fully read all of the evidence or facts in the case and at some point tried to walk away from it before being persuaded by colleagues like Peter Strzok, one of the top FBI agents handling the case. Join Mueller’s investigation team. In late 2016, Barnett repeatedly requested the FBI to conduct an interview with Flynn describing it as formality and “just hanging up” before the investigation was closed. However, his superiors at the time resisted, and some feared it might draw Flynn’s attention to their investigation.
Senior FBI agents conducted the interview with Flynn on January 24, 2017 without consulting Barnett until it was over.
The Barnett interview also gives some insight into the tension between agents and prosecutors on the Mueller team. Barnett says that when he initially briefed Mueller’s prosecutor Jeannie Rhee about the Flynn probe, she appeared deeply doubtful of Barnett’s view that there was little evidence that Flynn was in the Russians’ pocket.
“Barnett thought Rhee was obsessed with Flynn and Russia and she had an agenda,” the report said. “Rhee told Barnett she was looking forward to working with him. Barnett told Rhee that they wouldn’t work together. “
The interview with Barnett was conducted by a team led by District Attorney Barr who examined the Flynn case, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Jeffrey Jensen. It is unclear why the interview took place just days before the Flynn trial, which was delayed from May onwards because Flynn and the Justice Department tried unsuccessfully to lead the interview. Another prosecutor, U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham, is conducting a broader investigation into the entire Trump-Russia investigation, including leaks and other potential wrongdoing.
Flynn’s team posted earlier on Thursday another set of documents from the Department of Justice, which contained hundreds of internal FBI messages between agents and other officials discussing the Flynn case. The file attached to the news alleges that it shows agents who at various points cast serious doubts on the validity of the Flynn investigation.
The Flynn team claims that a message dated January 2017 – an exchange in which two FBI officers suggest that their colleagues all have liability insurance before Trump took office – indicated that this was linked to their fears about the settlement of the Flynn Investigation related. But Barnett contradicted this claim in his interview, suggesting that it was unlikely to be related to the Flynn probe as it was in new reports prior to the matter being publicized. Barnett also said he regularly encourages colleagues to get professional indemnity insurance.
The Flynn legal team may also have misinterpreted another set of messages saying, “FBI analysts have discussed some agents’ preference for a Clinton presidency.” However, a fuller set of messages accompanying the filing make it clear that it was referring to a suggestion that the Russians – not FBI officials – might have preferred Clinton as she was a well-known entity, while Trump was more of a ” Wild Card ”presented.
In a more comprehensive exchange, the agents discuss the topic and answer: “I don’t know any man, the hooks that Russia has in the capital T are pretty deep.”
The decision by Flynn’s attorneys to submit more of the documents received from prosecutors appears to contradict an April order by Judge Emmet Sullivan that the Flynn team should not submit any further material provided by the DOJ until the department is known there that it has completed a review of the Flynn matter Barr ordered earlier this year.