Chuck Ross, DCNF
- Documents released in Michael Flynn’s ongoing court case on Thursday show that FBI employees expressed reservations about the bureau’s probe of the retired general.
- One investigator called the probe a “nightmare,” according to internal FBI messages.
- Another message shows an investigator saying they were “glad” the FBI planned to close the probe on Nov. 8, 2016.
- In October 2016, an FBI analyst said that the bureau would face “tough questions” once documents from the investigation became public through the Freedom of Information Act.
FBI employees who worked on Crossfire Hurricane called the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn a “nightmare” and expressed relief when the bureau considered closing the probe in November 2016, according to messages released on Thursday.
Flynn’s lawyers released the documents in a court filing in his federal criminal case on charges that he lied to the FBI.
The messages show that some FBI employees questioned investigative steps that the bureau took in the investigation. The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation against him and three other Trump campaign advisers in August 2016 over their possible ties to Russia.
The messages were culled from the FBI’s internal “Lync” messaging platform. The employees are not identified in the document dump, though they appear to have had detailed knowledge of the probe.
One exchange suggests that an FBI official ordered the investigation of Flynn, whose code name was “Crossfire Razor,” to be closed on Nov. 8, 2016.
“He said shut down Razor,” the analyst wrote, adding minutes later: “So glad they’re closing Razor.”
The time stamp for the message is 5:42 p.m., which would have been hours before Donald Trump pulled an upset victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
Other messages show that the FBI agents believed that the bureau was extending the duration of the Flynn investigation by sending out National Security Letters (NSLs) to obtain the retired general’s financial records.
“That the decision to nsl [national security letter] finances for razor bought him time,” an FBI employee wrote on Nov. 21, 2016.
Messages from Dec. 5, 2016 show analysts doubted whether NSLs were useful for the investigation.
One analyst wrote that investigators had “put out traces” and “tripwires to community” and found “nothing.”
“We didn’t find anything else from the investigation about him,” the analyst wrote, according to the court filing.
Flynn’s lawyers said in the court filing that the messages show that investigators used NSLs as “a ruse” to extend the investigation.
“These Stalinist tactics mandate immediate dismissal of this case,” the lawyers said.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office drafted a memo on Jan. 4, 2017 recommending that the counterintelligence investigation of Flynn be closed down. The memo said that the FBI investigated several leads on Flynn’s possible ties to Russia but found no evidence showing that he was working covertly as a Kremlin agent.
Peter Strzok, who was deputy chief of counterintelligence at the time, intervened at the last minute to keep the investigation going, according to documents released in a previous court filing.
The FBI had obtained a transcript of Flynn’s phone calls on Dec. 29, 2016 with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Strzok and another FBI agent interviewed Flynn about the calls on Jan. 24, 2017. Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to lying during the interview, though he has since retracted his admission of guilt.
The messages also show that FBI employees expressed concerns that aspects of the investigation of the Trump campaign would eventually be made public. In one message in October 2016, an FBI employee said that “tough questions” would be asked once aspects of the Crossfire Hurricane probe became public through the Freedom of Information Act.
Messages from Jan. 10, 2017 show an FBI employee telling another that they and others working on the investigation “all went and purchased professional liability insurance.” The person said that employees at “the Agency” — a possible reference to the CIA — had also purchased insurance.
“The whole thing is pretty ugly…we shall see how things pan out,” the analyst wrote.
The documents are the fifth production of records provided to Flynn’s legal team since Attorney General William Barr ordered a review of the investigation in January.
The Justice Department filed a motion to withdraw charges against Flynn on May 7, citing the discovery of FBI notes and memos that had not been given to Flynn’s lawyers. Barr has said that he believes the FBI under James Comey set a “perjury trap” for Flynn.
The case against Flynn remains open because Judge Emmet Sullivan has sued to hold a hearing to force the Justice Department to explain the decision to drop the case against Flynn.
“These documents provide information long known to the agents and others at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI; information long concealed by the Special Counsel and FBI,” Flynn’s lawyers said in the court filing.
“This evidence shows outrageous, deliberate misconduct by FBI and DOJ—playing games with the life of a national hero.”
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