FBI di­rec­tor or­ders in­ter­nal re­view of Flynn case

The Washington Post - - NEWS - BY MATT ZAPO­TO­SKY AND DEVLIN BAR­RETT matt.zapo­to­sky@wash­post.com devlin.bar­rett@wash­post.com

FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher A. Wray has or­dered an in­ter­nal re­view of how the bureau han­dled its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Michael Flynn, Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, the bureau said in a state­ment Fri­day.

The re­view, which will be han­dled by the FBI’S in­spec­tion di­vi­sion, will both seek to “de­ter­mine whether any cur­rent em­ploy­ees en­gaged in mis­con­duct” and eval­u­ate broader FBI poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to “iden­tify any im­prove­ments that might be war­ranted,” the state­ment said.

The re­view is un­usual, par­tic­u­larly be­cause At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam P. Barr al­ready had com­mis­sioned St. Louis U.S. At­tor­ney Jeff Jensen ear­lier this year to ex­am­ine the han­dling of Flynn’s case. The state­ment said the FBI’S re­view will “com­ple­ment” that work, and Jensen’s ex­am­i­na­tion will take pri­or­ity. Jensen is one of a num­ber of U.S. at­tor­neys whom Barr has com­mis­sioned to in­ves­ti­gate mat­ters of in­ter­est to Trump.

“I don’t know what the point is, other than to ap­pease the at­tor­ney gen­eral,” Gre­gory Brower, a for­mer FBI of­fi­cial who served un­der Wray, said of the new re­view.

“There’s a pat­tern of want­ing to be able to say cer­tain things are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.”

Trump has com­plained pub­licly about Wray for “skirt­ing” the de­bate about the FBI’S 2016 in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign to in­flu­ence the elec­tion, of which the Flynn case was a part. He has even sug­gested Wray’s fu­ture as FBI di­rec­tor might be in doubt.

Peo­ple close to the pres­i­dent, though, have said he does not seem in­clined to fire Wray, and Barr has pub­licly de­fended the FBI di­rec­tor, call­ing him “a great part­ner to me in our ef­fort to re­store the Amer­i­can peo­ple’s con­fi­dence in both the De­part­ment of Jus­tice and the FBI.”

Trump ap­pointed Wray as FBI di­rec­tor in 2017, and he is sup­posed to have a 10-year term to keep his po­si­tion in­su­lated from pol­i­tics.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing,” Trump told Fox News ear­lier this month when asked about Wray’s role in on­go­ing re­views of the FBI’S han­dling of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “Let’s see what hap­pens with him. Look, the jury’s still out.”

Wray’s move could par­tially pla­cate Trump, as it sug­gests the FBI di­rec­tor is heed­ing his re­peated calls to ex­plore what the pres­i­dent sees as malfea­sance in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But the FBI state­ment made clear its im­pact would be lim­ited.

Trump has pushed for crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions of those in­volved in the case. The FBI noted it “does not have the pros­e­cu­to­rial author­ity to bring a crim­i­nal case.”

While the FBI said cur­rent em­ploy­ees could face dis­ci­pline, most of those in­volved in the mat­ter that have drawn Trump’s ire — in­clud­ing for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James B. Comey, for­mer deputy di­rec­tor An­drew Mccabe and for­mer coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence agent Peter Str­zok — are no longer em­ployed there.

“As for for­mer em­ploy­ees, the FBI does not have the abil­ity to take any dis­ci­plinary ac­tion,” the state­ment said.

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to ly­ing to agents about con­ver­sa­tions he had with a Rus­sian diplo­mat. Trump fired him as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser for ly­ing to the vice pres­i­dent about the same thing. But as he awaited sen­tenc­ing, Flynn changed le­gal teams and sought to undo his plea, al­leg­ing a host of mis­con­duct, in­clud­ing that he was en­trapped by the FBI agents who in­ter­viewed him.

At Jensen’s rec­om­men­da­tion, the Jus­tice De­part­ment this month took the rare step of ask­ing the court to throw out the case en­tirely, de­cid­ing that agents did not have a good rea­son to in­ter­view Flynn in the first place. Two FBI agents had been de­tailed to Jensen’s team, and of­fi­cials said there had been dis­cus­sions about an in­ter­nal FBI re­view af­ter he made his rec­om­men­da­tion to drop the case.

The de­part­ment’s move has proved con­tro­ver­sial, with many le­gal ob­servers as­sert­ing that Barr seemed to be try­ing to help a friend of the pres­i­dent. A ca­reer pros­e­cu­tor as­signed to the case with­drew from it be­fore the de­part­ment changed its po­si­tion. But many on the po­lit­i­cal right hailed the move, and Trump heaped praise on Barr.

The case is now mired in com­pli­cated le­gal pro­ceed­ings. Af­ter U.S. District Judge Em­met Sul­li­van ap­pointed a re­tired judge to op­pose the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s po­si­tion and con­sider whether Flynn could be held in con­tempt of court, Flynn’s le­gal team asked an ap­peals court to in­ter­vene. A three-judge panel on Thurs­day or­dered Sul­li­van to ex­plain his ac­tions.

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