Attorney General Bill Barr has ordered an outside review of the FBI’s interview with former White House national security advisor Mike Flynn – a process that led Flynn to plead guilty to lying to the FBI.
The outside look at the contentious case – which has drawn the repeat personal attention of President Trump – comes amid a separate outside look Barr ordered at the origins of the Russia probe.
Barr has tasked Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, to examine Flynn’s FBI interview during the first days of the Trump administration.
Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI for his false statements, which he pleaded guilty for making.
Jensen will be working alongside the case’s lead prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, a move that comes a month after Flynn told the court he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller´s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
That turnaround came after Flynn had spent months cooperating with prosecutors in Mueller’s office.
The news of Barr’s decision to tap an outside prosecutor on the Flynn case caps an extraordinary week at the Justice Department.
On Tuesday, the department lightened its sentencing recommendation for Trump political ally Roger Stone after criticism from the president that an earlier recommendation for seven to nine years in prison was too harsh.
The move prompted all four career prosecutors on the case to withdraw and one of them to quit the government entirely.
Barr yesterday tried to beat back critics’ concerns that he was doing the president’s political bidding by intervening to help Stone, and said the president’s constant tweets on criminal cases were undercutting his ability to do his job.
But today, Trump took to twitter to assert his ‘legal right’ to intervene in criminal cases.
He quoted Barr stating that Trump had never asked him to intervene in a criminal case.
‘This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!’ Trump said.
Also today, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. revealed they would not be pressing charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a frequent punching bag of Trump’s, over allegations he misled investigators about his communications with the media.
According to NBC News, the federal prosecutors working the Flynn case came under ‘pressure’ from senior Justice Department officials to recommend a lighter sentence – which would trace some of the contours of the Roger Stone case.
Barr’s decision to bring in Jensen on the Flynn case, however, could potentially undercut his efforts to do damage control after Trump’s flurry of tweets on the Stone case.
The Justice Department official stressed that Jensen’s role was not to oversee career prosecutors’ work on the Flynn case, but to work alongside them.
Jensen is assisting the department and prosecution team ‘to get a complete and thorough understanding of the facts and the record in a complicated case,’ the person told Reuters, speaking anonymously in order to discuss sensitive personnel matters.
Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about interactions with Russia´s ambassador to the United States in the weeks before Trump took office.
He was supposed to help cooperate with the government as part of his deal. But he later switched lawyers and tactics, arguing that prosecutors in the case had violated his rights and tricked him into lying about his December 2016 conversations with Sergei Kislyak, then Russia´s ambassador in Washington.