Grassley on Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and the Russia Investigation
May 11, 2020
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and the Russia Investigation
Monday, May 11, 2020
In the last several weeks, a lot of information relating to the FBI’s Russia investigation has been declassified and made public. That’s in large part thanks to Attorney General Barr and Acting Director Grenell. Their acts of transparency are finally shining a light on the dark corners of the federal government. They’re doing what they ought to do and I encourage them to keep it up.
In the last several weeks, we’ve also seen a lot of denial from some quarters in the media about the information that’s been released. Also, last week, former President Obama said the rule of law is at risk because of the Justice Department’s dismissal of the Flynn case.
I believe the opposite is true. The rule of law is at risk if the federal government can get away with violating the constitution to do what they did to Lt. Gen. Flynn. And when it comes to those violations and other misconduct by former government officials, Obama and the mainstream media pundit circle are silent.
I’ve heard no comment from Mr. Obama about independent Inspector General findings that Andrew McCabe lied under oath to federal investigators multiple times. Or about how DOJ prosecutors falsely told the court that they had produced all Brady material to Flynn. Or when the federal government surveilled an American citizen connected to the Trump campaign without probable cause and based on intelligence the FBI knew was questionable at best.
Since 2017, I’ve aggressively pursued the Flynn investigation to find out more about why the FBI decided to interview Flynn, make him a subject of an investigation, and then why the Justice Department eventually charged him. From the beginning, I’ve wanted to know the facts of the case. And from the beginning, none of what I found looked right.
Having done good government oversight for over 40 years, I know a government foul up when I see it.
The public knows a lot more than it did in 2017 when the news first broke about the Flynn case. For example, we know that on January 4, 2017, the FBI wrote a closing memorandum on Flynn, who was codenamed Crossfire Razor by the FBI, that said the Intelligence Community could find no derogatory information on him.
On the very same day the FBI was ready to close the Flynn case, Peter Strzok asked another FBI agent, “Hey if you haven’t closed Razor don’t do it yet.”
The case was still open at that moment and Strzok asked that it be kept open “for now.” Strzok then messaged Lisa Page saying that Razor still happened to be open because of some oversight and said “Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20 percent of the time…”
During the course of my oversight activities of the FBI, I’ve uncovered and made public large amounts of Strzok’s and Page’s messages. When reviewing all the faults and disasters of the Russia investigation, these text messages are very important. They are the free expression of these top FBI employees’ mindset, unencumbered by rules or decorum. They give us a look at what the drivers of the Russia investigation actually believed.
In August 2016, just after the FBI opened the Russia investigation, Page said, “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!?”
She’s the one who edited Flynn’s 302 summary along with Strzok, which contradicted the original 302.
Strzok responded, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
Their animus towards Trump helps to explain why they cut corners and didn’t follow regular protocol in running their inquiry.
On January 5, 2017, the day after Strzok moved to keep the Flynn case open, President Obama met with Director Comey, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Vice President Biden, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. In that meeting they briefed Obama on the Russia investigation. It’s unclear to what extent they discussed the details of the investigation amongst each other. Given all that we know now regarding the fake foundation to the inquiry, it’s time we asked: what did Obama and Biden know and when did they know it?
During the course of my oversight, I acquired an email from Susan Rice. She sent herself an email on Obama’s last day in office – January 20, 2017. That email memorialized the alleged contents of the January 5, 2017, meeting with Obama.
As I noted in 2018 when I made that email public, I found it odd that among her activities in the final moments of the final day of the Obama administration that she would write herself an email about a meeting that happened weeks prior about one investigation. According to Rice, Obama wanted everything done “by the book.” Of course, that never happened.
She also said, in part, “The President (as in Obama) asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team.”
Then, one week later, on January 12, 2017, somebody in the Obama administration leaked the Flynn/Kislyak call to the Washington Post that ignited rumors about Flynn’s associations with Russians and a possible violation of the arcane Logan Act. A perfectly timed leak. One that would help create the fake foundation to interview Flynn.
Well, twelve days later, on January 24, 2017, Strzok interviewed Flynn in the White House. Prior to that interview, Comey chose not to follow normal protocols to inform the White House that the FBI intended to interview an employee. Usually you work through the White House counsel to have discussions for approvals and who would be present.
Comey even bragged about getting away with skirting these rules. When he was asked in a 2018 interview about how he did it, Comey said, “I sent them. Something I probably wouldn’t have done or even gotten away with in a more organized investigation, a more organized administration.”
According to Comey’s former assistant, Comey said, “We just decided, you know, screw it” in reference to them breaking protocol.
That’s hardly “by the book.”
Flynn was never told what he was being secretly interrogated for and the whole thing was done without an attorney present. Now we know that the FBI had no real investigative purpose to interview Flynn.
We also know, based on FBI notes, that agents apparently interviewed Flynn to trick him in a lie so that they could prosecute him or get him fired. Keep in mind, the FBI had prepared to close the case weeks before.
The FBI already had the transcript of the Flynn/Kislyak call. They knew exactly what was discussed, so what was the point of interviewing Flynn if they already had the transcript?
Well, lucky for Strzok, the FBI had not technically closed the Flynn case yet so he figured they could lay a trap for Flynn. In so doing, they didn’t warn him he was under investigation. They went around the Justice Department and bypassed White House interview protocols.
Under Comey’s leadership, the FBI abused governmental power in ways the Founders and Framers feared most. The Russia investigation is a textbook example of what not to do. At every step of the investigation, the government sought evidence to advance it, never got the evidence they needed, and advanced the investigation anyway.
That is an abuse of power!
Let’s recall that Comey also leaked his memos of his private discussions with President Trump to get a special counsel appointed. He had a plan. It worked. We had Mueller for two years and more than $30 million. Mueller found no collusion, and no obstruction. That’s exactly the same information that the House Intelligence Committee’s 50 plus depositions told us. And those were done in 2017. Mueller finished in 2019. That’s more than $30 million just to reinvent the wheel.
Now, with respect to Comey, I think it’s monumentally important to point out a piece of his testimony from 2017 before the House Intelligence Committee. Comey said the following,
“…we had an open counterintelligence investigation on Mr. Flynn, and it had been open since the summertime, and we were very close to closing it. In fact, I had – I think I had authorized it to be closed at the end of December, beginning of January.”
Comey leaked his memos so that the public would know that the President allegedly said to him that he hoped Comey would let the whole Flynn thing go.
That’s what the hook was to getting a special counsel appointed.
Not once in Comey’s memos did he mention that by the time that conversation occurred, he had already authorized the Flynn case to be closed. Don’t you think that’s a material fact that would put the proper context on his interactions with Trump?
Attorney General Barr is exactly right. What the FBI did to Flynn cannot be justified by any angle of review. What the FBI did is flout the rules, the law and the Constitution.
That’s where the outrage ought to be. Not on the dismissal of the case but on the fact the case was brought in the first place and a good man’s life was destroyed.
Mueller had all these facts. He had the documents. Had the Brady material. He had the FBI notes and contradictory 302 summaries. He had the emails. He had all the information that showed Flynn was set up, targeted, and pressured to plead guilty in a secret side deal between the Mueller team and his former lawyers only because he was running out of money and the government was coming after his son.
Flynn did what he did to save his family from financial ruin and his son from reputational ruin. He did what any father would do for his family.
If it can happen to Flynn it can happen to you. And in some ways it also happened to Carter Page and the illegal surveillance on him.
We’re in a constant battle between liberty and tyranny. My fellow Americans, let’s use the Russia investigation and all its shortcomings to forever guard against the tyranny of the federal government.