Perhaps no figure in the Trump universe better exemplifies the struggle between his administration and those who’ve investigated it than Gen. Michael Flynn.
Flynn was an early takedown by Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election. In 2017, the ex-general pleaded guilty to lying to investigators looking into the matter. He has since sought to revoke that plea, and a bombshell that dropped Wednesday shows why.
Documents released by the Department of Justice include handwritten notes in which FBI operatives suggest their goal in interviewing Flynn might well be “to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.” It’s far from clear they cared much about actually finding the truth.
The revelation adds to claims the government never had any legitimate reason to probe Flynn in the first place. It was a dirty fishing expedition, plain and simple.
The excuse the FBI has tried to use for investigating Flynn is that he allegedly violated the Logan Act — a 1799 law meant to stop private individuals from conducting foreign affairs that’s widely viewed as unconstitutional, has never been successfully prosecuted and surely doesn’t apply to incoming national security advisers.
Yet once the Feds get a foot in the door, all kinds of things can happen — and did. The Logan Act charge over Flynn’s conversations with a Russian official was absurd, but after former FBI boss James Comey was fired and Mueller took up the Russia investigation, officials learned that Flynn had failed to register as an agent of Turkey in a previous job. He — and his son, too — were threatened with prosecution, and he eventually pleaded guilty to lying.
There are good reasons why lying to federal investigators is a crime. Those conducting law enforcement for the nation need that degree of power to help them ferret out the truth.
But with that power comes significant responsibility. What the handwritten notes blatantly suggest is that the questioning of Flynn may have been less an attempt to find the truth than an effort to entrap him in a lie, get him fired and strong-arm him at a later point.
Such tactics should send chills through anyone concerned with due process and an FBI focused on fact-finding, not on playing political games in which they target their enemies. It is increasingly likely Flynn was the victim of a cynical investigation in which he probably never had a chance.
Meanwhile, for all his whimsical tweets featuring bucolic settings in which he wonders what happened and why, Comey keeps looking worse and worse, as we learn more about the early days of the Russia investigation.
Unbridled zeal and self-righteousness led to his agents taking dangerous liberties in looking into the man Trump would tap to be his national security adviser.
Add to all this the Lisa Page and Peter Strzok anti-Trump love texts and the abuse of the fabulist Steele dossier, among other outrages, and the FBI’s record during that time stinks to high heaven.
When Congress and the executive branch finish looking into the FBI’s shenanigans, there must be serious consequences for those who abused their offices in pursuit of political ends. It is not the job of federal law enforcement to intimidate incoming members of an administration elected by the people just because FBI leadership thinks the people got the choice wrong.
After more than two years that must have been grueling for Flynn, the truth seems to be coming out. What was done to him appears to be a set-up job for the ages — never an honest attempt to get to the bottom of Russian election interference, always an effort to kneecap a nascent presidency. And a shameful one at that.
We need accountability. The American people need officials who spent their time on farcical investigations, and those who would do so again, to understand that such behavior will not be tolerated.
The arc of justice is long; it has been for Gen. Flynn. But now, as the truth begins to emerge, let’s make sure we’re all paying attention. And let’s let our federal government’s law-enforcement apparatus know that it serves the people — and can’t control or intimidate us.
David Marcus is The Federalist’s New York correspondent.
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