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Newly unsealed FBI records show internal debate over goal of Flynn probe

Michael Flynn documents unsealed

Newly unsealed FBI notes show that during an internal discussion about the bureau's investigation of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, an unknown author questioned whether the goal was "Truth/Admission" or "to get him to lie."

The single page of handwritten notes is dated January 24, 2017, the same day of Flynn's White House FBI interview. While the author is not identified, the initials "EP" appear near the date. CBS News has reached out to a former FBI official to confirm whether that official is the author.

The notes are lightly redacted, and read in part, "We have a case on Flynn & Russians."  In a section titled "Afterwards," it states, "What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?"

The notes continue, "If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act give facts to DOJ + have them decide..If we're seen as playing games, WH will be furious.  Protect our institution by not playing games."

The Logan Act is an obscure statute designed to prevent individuals from claiming to represent the United States in negotiations with foreign powers. 

The FBI declined to comment on the notes.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators more than two years ago about his communications with the Russian ambassador, and as part of the plea, agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators. More recently, Flynn's legal team has sought to withdraw the plea.

In response to the note, constitutional law professor and CBS News contributor Jonathan Turley tweeted, "We need to hear from the DOJ official on the meaning of this note.  However, the reference to the Logan Act is particularly chilling. It suggests the use of a flagrantly unconstitutional act to trap a top Trump official."

Turley continued, "This is just one document (though more is expected to be released) However, it adds troubling new details to an already dubious prosecution by the Justice Department."

Three pages of emails, also included in the release, detail conversations between former FBI Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. In one exchange, Page asks Strzok and a recipient whose identity is redacted at what point to warn Flynn that lying to federal agents is federal crime, a violation of the false statement statute 18 USC 1001. 

On the evening before Flynn's interview, Page wrote to Strzok, and what appears to be the FBI Office of the General Counsel, "(redacted) I have a question for you. Could the admonition re 1001 be given at the beginning at the interview? Or does it have to come following a statement which agents believe to be false? Does the policy speak to that?"

Page continues, "It seems to be the former, then it would be an easy way to just casually slip that in. 'Of course, as you know sir, federal law makes it a crime to...'"

The official, whose name is redacted, replies, "I haven't read the policy lately, but if I recall correctly, you can say it at any time. I'm 90 percent sure about that, but I can check in the am." 

In court documents filed by Flynn's legal team in December 2018, lawyers claimed "The agents did not provide General Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 before, during, or after the interview."

In another email from the day of the Flynn interview from Strzok, to a group of heavily redacted names, he discusses questions for "DD's call." "DD" is FBI shorthand for Deputy Director.  

Among the questions, whether the individual is the subject of an investigation, whether they "need an attorney," and should they tell "(then WH chief of Staff Reince) Priebus" and "The President?" 

Earlier this year, Attorney General William Barr brought in the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Jeffrey Jensen, with the mandate to review the Flynn case, and whether the government had fulfilled its so-called "Brady" obligations to make all evidence available to the defense. A DOJ official said Barr was a driving force behind the decision to make the records public.

Flynn's legal team now seeks to withdraw his 2017 guilty plea, based on allegations that he was pressured and evidence was withheld. 

Clare Hymes and Robert Legare contributed reporting. 

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