- FBI Director Christopher Wray has ordered an internal review of the bureau’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
- The review will examine whether any “current employees engaged in misconduct” while investigating Flynn and identify whether “improvements” need to be made to FBI protocol, the bureau said in a statement.
- Wray’s decision comes as President Donald Trump and his allies double down on a conspiracy theory, dubbed Obamagate, that accuses the Obama administration of masterminding a “deep state” plot to target Flynn and sabotage Trump’s presidency.
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FBI Director Christopher Wray has ordered a review of the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the bureau said in a statement Friday.
“FBI Director Christopher Wray today ordered the Bureau’s Inspection Division to conduct an after-action review of the Michael Flynn investigation,” the statement said. The review will examine whether any “current employees engaged in misconduct” while investigating Flynn and identify whether any “improvements” should be made to FBI protocol.
“Although the FBI does not have the prosecutorial authority to bring a criminal case, the Inspection Division can and will evaluate whether any current onboard employees engaged in actions that might warrant disciplinary measures,” the statement said.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak regarding US sanctions against Russia.
Flynn initially cooperated with prosecutors but later shifted course and hired Sidney Powell, a defence attorney who took a more combative stance, urging the court to dismiss the Justice Department’s case against Flynn and accusing the department of prosecutorial misconduct.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department abruptly moved to drop its case against Flynn after Attorney General William Barr tapped an outside prosecutor to reexamine the case. A federal judge is reviewing the request.
Late last month, the Justice Department also turned over four pages of records to Flynn’s legal team showing how the FBI debated handling his interview in early 2017.
“If we’re seen as playing games, WH will be furious,” one page of the notes said. “Protect our institution by not playing games.”
There was also some deliberation within the bureau about how to phrase questions to Flynn during the interview.
“What is our goal? Truth/admission, or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the notes said.
Intelligence veterans said the notes depicted the extraordinarily sensitive nature of an investigation into a newly inaugurated president’s highest-profile national security aide. But President Donald Trump and Flynn’s other defenders characterised the documents as a smoking gun showing that the FBI tried to trap the former national security adviser into pleading guilty.
The FBI’s decision to review the Flynn investigation also comes as Trump and his allies double down on allegations that the Obama administration masterminded the Russia investigation as part of a “deep-state” plot to sabotage Trump’s presidency.
The conspiracy theory, dubbed Obamagate, accuses former Vice President Joe Biden and other Obama administration officials of improperly requesting that Flynn’s name be “unmasked” in intelligence reports monitoring Kislyak’s communications.
The conspiracy theory picked up steam last week when Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, declassified a list of Obama administration officials who made unmasking requests that included Flynn’s name between November 30, 2016, and January 12, 2017. Biden was among the names on the list.
Trump and his allies seized on the development and said it showed that Biden and others improperly and illegally unmasked the former national security adviser’s identity.
But a Washington Post report on Wednesday debunked that allegation when it revealed that Flynn’s name was never “masked” in the first place.
Moreover, the list documented unmasking requests made through the National Security Agency, while transcripts documenting Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were an FBI product, meaning the names on the declassified list Grenell released are unrelated to Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak.
The US intelligence community also surveils hundreds of thousands of foreign targets per year, and “unmasking” is a routine and legal tool officials use to make more sense of the communications they’re monitoring. The intelligence community gets thousands of unmasking requests a year.
The Obamagate theory also accuses Obama and Biden of having advance knowledge of the FBI’s plans to interview Flynn about his communications with Kislyak during the 2017 presidential transition period.
That allegation centres on an Oval Office meeting that took place on January 5, 2017, and included Obama, Biden, then-national security adviser Susan Rice, then-FBI Director James Comey, and then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
Rice sent herself an email documenting the meeting afterward – known as a contemporaneous memo – and Trump and his Republican allies have seized on the email as evidence that Obama ordered the FBI to “spy” on the Trump campaign.
But the email, which was declassified in full this week (though much of it had already been declassified), appears to indicate otherwise.
During the meeting, according to Rice’s email, Obama emphasised “his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book.'”
“The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective,” the email said. “He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”
Obama said, however, that from “a national security perspective,” the outgoing administration should be “mindful” when sharing information about Russia with the incoming Trump administration, according to Rice’s memo.
Comey then affirmed that he was proceeding “by the book” but said he was concerned about Flynn’s frequent conversations with Kislyak and that the communications “could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information.”
Obama asked Comey if he was saying the National Security Council should not share sensitive intelligence about Russia with Flynn, to which Comey replied: “Potentially.”
He added, however, that he had no information indicating that Flynn had passed any classified information to Kislyak, though their “level of communication” was “unusual,” the memo said.
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