Mueller Defends FBI’s Questioning of Flynn at White House

(Bloomberg) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller defended the propriety of federal agents’ January 2017 interview with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, during which he told lies that led to criminal charges.

Mueller, in court papers filed Friday ahead of Flynn’s Dec. 18 sentencing, rebuts an implication by Flynn’s attorneys this week that the agents lulled the onetime Trump aide and U.S. Army general into a false sense of security by playing down the severity of the situation and failing to warn him that lying to them would be a crime.

Mueller Defends FBI’s Questioning of Flynn at White House

“The circumstances of the defendant’s interview, which are further described below, are not mitigating,” attorneys for the special counsel said. “Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI.”

Flynn was among the first people charged in the 19-month-long probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He pleaded guilty a year ago to making false statements to federal agents, and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

In that December 2017 hearing, Flynn confessed he lied about conversations he’d had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and revealed he’d acted as a conduit between the diplomat and President Donald Trump’s transition team on at least two issues.

In exchange for that assistance, the special counsel asked U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to spare Flynn, a three-time Bronze Star recipient, from any prison time. Flynn’s lawyers joined in that request, but they also used their 178-page submission to underscore their client’s 33-year military career, cooperation and “genuine contrition” while criticizing the agents’ conduct.

Acknowledging those criticisms, Sullivan ordered prosecutors to also submit FBI notes regarding the Flynn interview. The latest filing on Friday was accompanied by a half-dozen pages of those notes, many of which are redacted.

The interview was arranged by the FBI deputy director at the time, Andrew McCabe, who was fired later after internal FBI investigators found that he had not been forthcoming about authorizing discussions with a reporter about a pending investigation. Among the agents who spoke with Flynn was Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, who was dismissed over anti-Trump texts.

The notes will help Sullivan to assess the credibility of Flynn’s arguments when determining what punishment to impose. It may also bolster that ruling in the event the retired general attempts to mount a legal challenge to it.

Among the disclosures in the Mueller filing was a new detail: As Flynn was escorting Strzok and another agent through the West Wing on that fateful day, the new president was surveying the installation of artwork and walked right between the agents.

“Nobody paid attention to the agents,” the account of the episode said. “Flynn didn’t introduce them to anyone.”

The case is U.S. v. Flynn, 17-cr-232, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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