Former FBI Director James Comey admitted in an interview that his treatment of former Gen. Michael Flynn as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was “unusual” — in part because anti-Trump FBI agents reportedly tried to convince Flynn not to seek legal assistance.
For comparison, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was interviewed with seven of her legal advisors present.
The news of Comey’s admission comes on the heels of a controversial report from the Office of the Inspector General, which on Tuesday admitted that two cellular phones belonging to anti-Trump FBI agents Peter Strzok and Liza Page were “wiped” and all data lost from their time inside Mueller’s team.
Strzok was one of the FBI agents that interviewed Flynn. He was recently fired from the FBI for his “extreme bias” against the Trump administration.
Besides Strzok, the other agent that reportedly advised Flynn not to seek legal advice was none other than former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
These two anti-Trump FBI agents presence at Flynn’s initial interviews was described as “really problematic” by Ray Batvinis, a retired FBI special agent.
“All it does is lend fuel to the fire. It does not help the institution and does not really help as far as the transparency of the investigation is concerned,” Batvinis told local station KUTV2.
Their behavior was so suspicious, in fact, that even Comey admitted to MSNBC on Sunday that sending them hurt the credibility of the Mueller probe — and was not standard practice for top level FBI agents.
When they interviewed Flynn, the FBI declined to go through the White House itself. Instead, they met with the retired general face-to-face and advised him not to bring a lawyer. The move has been described as a “perjury trap” by critics.
“If the FBI wanted to send agents into the White House itself to interview a senior official, you would work through the White House counsel, and there would be discussions and approvals and who would be there,” Comey told MSNBC.
Sending to outspoken anti-Trump FBI agents is “something I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more … organized administration,” Comey admitted.
Adding fuel to the controversy, the Department of Justice reported Tuesday that Stzrok’s text messages during his time under Mueller aren’t able to be recovered. According to their internal report, the FBI-issued iPhone had been restored to it’s factory settings after Stzrok turned it in — and the agency had no way to recover the missing information.
Stzrok made headlines last year when his text messages to then-lover Page during the 2016 presidential election became public. The messages contained vulgar rants promising that Trump would never be president, and were initially deleted. Special data scientists were later able to recover them. By that time, Stzrok had been working for Mueller’s team for months. He was quickly fired and questioned by Congress for his anti-Trump bias.
Flynn is set to be sentenced for a number of crimes early next week, but Mueller’s team has recommended no jail time for the decorated former general.
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The president himself spoke out in Flynn’s defense —
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. They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2018