McCabe: FBI Had 'Incontrovertible Evidence' That Flynn Was a National Security Concern

By Susan Jones | May 8, 2020 | 11:22am EDT
Former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe (Photo: Screen capture)
Former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe (Photo: Screen capture)

( - Former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe told CNN on Friday that by moving to dismiss the case against Gen. Michael Flynn, the Trump Justice Department is denying "the considerable national security concern that my colleagues and I had about Michael Flynn in 2016."

"The 30,000-foot view is that the Department of Justice seems to have completely capitulated to the political desires of the president, to the fact now that they have gone so far as to deny the existence of the considerable national security concern that my colleagues and I had about Michael Flynn in 2016," McCabe told CNN's "New Day" on Friday.

If I could back up just for a minute and kind of reset this thing. As everyone will remember, the FBI was investigating the Russians and the fact that the Russians might have been inappropriately intertwined with or coordinating with the Trump campaign.

We investigated Mr. Flynn because he had very significant, well-known, high-level contacts within the Russian government. But by the end of December we hadn't found very much new until, of course, we stumbled across absolutely uncontrovertible (sic) evidence that Mr. Flynn was having surreptitious contacts with the Russian government through the local ambassador, Sergei Kislyak.

Very simply, he was interviewed about those contacts. He was given an opportunity to explain why he was talking to the Russians. He lied during that interview. That's what he admitted doing.

The motion to dismiss charges against Flynn mentions McCabe, noting that McCabe phoned Flynn on Jan. 24, 2016 to set up the FBI interview, which took place that same day -- four days after Trump was inaugurated.

Former FBI Director James Comey later admitted that the FBI took advantage of the fledgling Trump administration by not going through the White House Counsel's office, something they  might not have been able to get away with under another administration. Comey also said the FBI didn't tell Flynn the real reason FBI wanted to talk to him.

According to the motion:

He (McCabe) explained (to Flynn) that recent media statements about his contacts with Kislyak merited a “sit down” and expressed the FBI’s desire to accomplish the interview “quickly, quietly and discretely as possible.”

Deputy Director McCabe further advised that if Mr. Flynn wished to have anyone else at the meeting, including the White House Counsel, the FBI would have to elevate the issue to DOJ. Mr. Flynn, himself a former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, stated that he readily expected that the FBI already knew the contents of his conversations with the ambassador, stating: “you listen to everything they say.” 

Mr. Flynn then agreed to meet with the interviewing agents in his office less than two hours later. Mr. Flynn was “unguarded” in the interview and “clearly” viewed the agents as “allies.”  When interviewing Mr. Flynn, Mr. Strzok and the other agent “didn’t show him the 2 Priestap’s notes dated January 24 state, “What’s our goal?  Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

On the same paper, Priestap wrote, “If we’re seen as playing games, WH will be furious.  Protect our institution by not playing games.” Another note stated, “We regularly show subjects evidence, with the goal of getting them to admit their wrongdoing.  I don’t see how getting someone to admit their wrongdoing is going easy on him.” 

Nor did the agents give, at any point, warnings that making false statements would be a crime. According to the FBI agents’ recollections, when asked if Mr. Flynn recalled any conversation in which he encouraged Kislyak not to “escalate the situation” in its response to American sanctions, Mr. Flynn responded uncertainly, stating, “Not really. I don’t remember. It wasn’t, ‘Don’t do anything.’” 

Mr. Flynn also stated that although it was possible, he did not recall any conversation in which the ambassador stated that Russia would moderate its response due to Mr. Flynn’s request. He stated that he did not have a long conversation with Mr. Kislyak to “don’t do something.” 

After the interview, the FBI agents expressed uncertainty as to whether Mr. Flynn had lied.   FBI agents reported to their leadership that Mr. Flynn exhibited a “very sure demeanor” and “did not give any indicators of deception.” Both of the agents “had the impression at the time that Flynn was not lying or did not think he was lying.”

On Friday, McCabe accused the Trump Justice Department of "blatantly ignoring the significant national security concern that we had at that time.”

Look, the American people have the right to have an election in which the person they choose is elected to office, not the person the Russian government wants.

So when we find out – have information that the Russians are trying to undermine and infiltrate the U.S. election, that is something very concerning. As we're doing that, we look to see who has contacts with the Russians.

General Flynn, as a private citizen, before he had taken his position in the White House, was having repeated contacts with the Russian government, asking for official government action, and that was something that certainly increased our concern that he might in fact be the point of contact with the Russian government.

The court filing notes that after four months of investigation, the FBI was prepared to close its investigation into Flynn, and had even drafted a "closing communication" to that effect.

McCabe on Friday confirmed that the FBI was considering closing the case, but "we had not made the decision to close the case. It was kind of a close call, it was something that we were discussing, until we stumbled across this really incredible evidence.”

The court filing says the only evidence was phone calls between Flynn, the incoming national security adviser, and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that had taken place in late December 2016 and which “touched on matters of foreign policy.”

"As of January 4, 2017, then, the FBI kept open its counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn based solely on his calls with Kislyak -- the only new information to arise since the FBI’s determination to close the case, the motion says.

The motion says that even if Flynn did lie about his call with Kislyak, "it wasn't material."

"Nonsense, McCabe said on Friday:

"The example would be, if you were concerned that somebody might be dealing drugs and you followed them around for a month and never saw them deal any drugs, you might start to think, maybe this person is not a drug dealer. Until, of course, you see them dealing drugs. And then your investigation continues.

“Of course, you come across new evidence....We were looking for contacts with the Russians. We hadn't seen any recent ones until we, of course, found one. So the idea that the investigation was somehow invalid because we were considering what to do with it, it's ridiculous. It ignores how investigations are closely considered every day."

McCabe also dismissed handwritten notes by then-Counterintelligence Director Bill Priestap, which asked, “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” 

According to McCabe on Friday, "The team got together and discussed the strategy, how do we approach this interview, what sorts of things should we be thinking about? I think those notes reflect one person's internal deliberations across the range of options that might take place.

"We strategize about interviews every day. When we sit down with a terrorist, we think about will they admit to the crimes that we think they have committed or will they lie about their known associations? If they lie, will that give us something else -- additional leverage to apply in our investigation? That's exactly what happened."

McCabe told CNN, "You know, quite frankly, I think the thing that people will take away from DOJ's actions yesterday is that there is absolutely no limit to what this attorney general will do to please the president of the United States."

The question going forward for Barr and others looking into FBI/Obama administration actions -- is there any limit to what the Obama Justice Department would have done to get rid of Donald Trump?

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