FBI Director Christopher Wray has ordered an internal review of a possible misconduct in the investigation of former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn, the office said Friday.
The post-action review will examine whether current staff were involved in misconduct during the investigation and assess whether improvements to FBI policies and procedures are needed.
In announcing the review, the FBI, a frequent target of President Donald Trump’s wrath, is intervening in a case that has become a battle cry for Trump supporters – and rightly so, as the Department of Justice heeds criticism that his recent decision to dismiss the Prosection was a politically motivated attempt to follow Trump’s bid.
The announcement complements the internal review of one of the proceedings signed by Special Advisor Robert Mueller during his investigation into the links between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It underscores how a case that appeared to have been resolved by Flynn’s 2017 admission of guilt has instead given way to a lengthy, politically charged debate over the tactics of the FBI and Justice Department during this indictment and Russia’s wider investigation.
The unusual investigation is being led by the Bureau’s Inspection Department, which is conducting internal investigations into potential employee misconduct. Trump has recently been sharply critical of the FBI, and two weeks ago even hinted that Wray’s fate as director was in the balance, but an FBI official said on Friday that the inspection had been under consideration for some time.
Although the FBI alone does not have the authority to initiate criminal prosecution, the post-action review will examine whether current employees involved in misconduct deserve discipline. The Department cannot take disciplinary action against former employees.
It is not clear how many officers involved in the Flynn investigation will remain with the FBI. Several prominent officials – including former Director James Comey, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former Agent Peter Strzok who interviewed Flynn – have either been dismissed or otherwise left the office.
The FBI did not say what kind of possible misconduct it was looking for in the investigation of Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to agents about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. But the case has long been a subject of outrage to Trump and his allies, who claimed that Flynn was effectively set up when the FBI interviewed him at the White House in January 2017.
These concerns were revived earlier this month when the Department of Justice dismissed the case and identified a number of problems in the way Flynn was being investigated.
The department’s motion for dismissal alleges that the agents did not have sufficient basis to question Flynn, especially since the FBI was ready to close its investigation of Flynn earlier this month after finding no crime. It states that any imperfect statements he may have made during the interview were not material to the underlying investigation into the links between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.
Attorney General William Barr, who earlier this year overturned the prosecution’s conviction recommendation in the case of Trump employee Roger Stone, defended Flynn’s decision, saying in a television interview that he was “acting within the law” and correcting what he felt was an injustice.
The Department of Justice determined that he was acting on the recommendation of US attorney Jeff Jensen of St. Louis, who was hired by Barr to review the Flynn case.
But this move outraged the former law enforcement officials involved in the case, who said the Justice Department had ignored the seriousness of the false testimony that Flynn had admitted to and the seriousness of their national security concerns about Flynn’s interactions with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
In his admission of guilt, Flynn admitted that he had lied when he asked Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration for election interference. Obama administration Justice Department officials warned the Trump White House about the conversation and said public misrepresentations about it made Flynn vulnerable to blackmail from Russia.
The motion to dismiss the case has triggered his own internal back and forth in the courts.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has assigned a retired judge to argue against the Justice Department’s position. Flynn’s lawyers have asked a federal appeals court to order Sullivan to dismiss the case and transfer all future trials to another judge. Meanwhile, an appeals court committee has asked Sullivan to respond to the defense’s request.
The FBI said that in addition to its own internal review, it had cooperated in several investigations assigned by Barr and had been transparent, including lending its own agents to the Jensen investigation.
“Director Wray approved this additional level of review after the Department of Justice, through the work of Mr. Jensen, developed enough information to determine how to proceed in the Flynn case,” the FBI statement said. “However, Mr Jensen’s work will continue to be a priority, and the Director has also instructed the Inspection Department to coordinate closely with Mr Jensen to ensure that the review does not interfere or hinder his efforts.