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DOJ official abruptly withdraws from Michael Flynn case

Chuck Ross on May 7, 2020

A top Justice Department official abruptly withdrew Thursday from the case against Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.

Brandon Van Grack, who is chief of the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit, notified the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C., through a court filing that he is withdrawing from the case.

Van Grack, who worked on the special counsel’s Russia investigation, did not give a reason for his withdrawal, but it came after a series of revelations that call into question the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. Lawyers for the retired lieutenant general have accused Van Grack and other prosecutors of withholding evidence that they said shows that FBI agents set a “perjury trap” for Flynn.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to lying in an interview with FBI agents on Jan. 24, 2017, regarding his conversations in December 2016 with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Flynn has since sought to withdraw from the plea deal. He said in a Jan. 29 court filing that he “regret[s]” pleading guilty, and that he did not lie to the FBI.

Flynn’s legal team has pressed the Justice Department to provide documents related to the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. Attorney General William Barr appointed another federal prosecutor, Jeffrey B. Jensen, a U.S. attorney in St. Louis, to review the Flynn probe.

Jensen’s review turned up several FBI documents that shows top bureau officials discussing how to handle the Flynn investigation in early 2017.

One of those documents is an FBI memo from Jan. 4, 2017, that shows that the Washington Field Office was poised to close down a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn after finding no evidence that he was working as an agent of Russia.

Peter Strzok, the deputy chief of FBI counterintelligence, intervened to stop the FBI from closing the case.

Flynn’s team was also provided with a handwritten memo dated Jan. 24, 2017, in which an FBI official questioned whether the goal of a White House interview with Flynn was to “get him to lie” during an interview with Strzok.

“What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Bill Priestap, the chief of FBI counterintelligence, wrote in the memo.

Van Grack’s maneuver bears some similarity to the sudden resignations of four prosecutors in the case against Roger Stone on Feb. 11. The four prosecutors withdrew from Stone’s case after the Justice Department intervened to modify a prison term recommendation for the longtime Trump confidant.

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