Many Americans are furious after learning how a group of partisan hacks at the FBI mistreated a 33-year military veteran simply to malign the incoming presidential administration.
Responding to the public outcry, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called on President Donald Trump to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is currently awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with a Russian ambassador in December 2016.
“If I was President Trump, I would just pardon Michael Flynn,” Gaetz said during an interview with The Hill’s Buck Sexton.
First, Gaetz argued that neither Flynn’s interactions with the Russian government as part of Trump’s transition team nor his subsequent interview with FBI officials represent anything illegal.
I think that when you look at the testimony that Jim Comey gave where he said there was no indicia of lying from Flynn based on the reports that he received from agents, when you look at the fact that the conversations that Flynn was having, they’re kind of case in course part of regular transition meetings that occur all the time in this town, and whenever governments are changing around the world.
Flynn called Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the weeks prior to Trump’s inauguration to convince the Russians to temper their response to sanctions recently imposed by the Obama administration for interfering in the 2016 presidential race. This was not only a legal communication, but such diplomatic efforts are expected from an incoming national security advisor.
Yet, that didn’t stop acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from sending FBI officials to question Flynn based on an incorrect interpretation of the Logan Act, a 218-year-old law under which no one has ever been prosecuted that prohibits private citizens from negotiating on behalf of the United States in disputes with foreign governments.
As the senior National Security Council adviser to the president-elect at the time, Flynn had every right to interface with foreign diplomats, and nothing about his discussion with Kislyak undermined U.S. interests.
Pants on fire
Gaetz is also correct that the FBI never accused Flynn of lying to them. Following the Jan. 24, 2017 White House interview, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified before a House Intelligence Committee that the two agents who interviewed Flynn “didn’t think he was lying.”
“I’m not troubled by Flynn’s conduct. I’m far more troubled by the fact that he seems to be in legal jeopardy so that there can be leverage built against the president,” Gaetz said.
Earlier this week, a district judge demanded that the special counsel produce all documents related to Flynn’s January 2017 interview after the three-star general’s attorneys alleged that their client was misled about the seriousness of his discussion with FBI agents. Contemporaneous records filed by the bureau demonstrate how Flynn was persuaded to abstain from seeking legal counsel, and agents were instructed to conceal the consequences of lying to the FBI.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who charged Flynn with lying months after the FBI closed their Logan Act investigation, argued that as a career intelligence official and Army veteran, Flynn should have known the consequences of lying to the FBI. But if that were the case, why did McCabe think it was necessary to direct interviewing agents to downplay the seriousness of the testimony?
A raw deal
Ultimately, Mueller recommended that Flynn be spared any prison time in his sentence, and President Trump credits the reduced sentence to agents feeling “embarrassed” about their conduct.
“They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated – the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!”
Gaetz is right to call for a full pardon for Flynn. The career service member was forced to sell his Virginia home in March to pay for his mounting legal bills, and relatives have called the legal battles “a trying experience” for the war veteran.