The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is trying to get to the bottom of “apparent contradictions” in former FBI Director James Comey’s claims about former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey told a Senate Judiciary panel in a March 15, 2017 interview that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe he intentionally lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, according to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Comey also “led us to believe” that the Justice Department “was unlikely to prosecute [Flynn] for false statements” made during his Jan. 24, 2017 interview with FBI agents, Grassley wrote Friday in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Comey’s remarks conflict with what he has claimed in recent interviews for his book tour, said Grassley. To get to the bottom of the matter, the Republican is asking Wray and Rosenstein to provide FBI notes taken during both the Comey and Flynn interviews.
Comey denied, in an April 26 interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, telling lawmakers that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe that Flynn was intentionally lying.
“Did you tell lawmakers that FBI agents didn’t believe former national security adviser Michael Flynn was lying intentionally to investigators?” Baier asked.
“No,” said Comey, adding that “someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that and didn’t say that.”
Comey said in a March 15, 2017 interview that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not detect physical signs of deception, the House Intelligence Committee said in a report released earlier this month.
The report also quoted former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who testified that “the two people who interviewed [Flynn] didn’t think he was lying.”
Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1 to lying during the FBI interview. Some observers have questioned whether Flynn accepted the guilty plea in order to avoid charges on other matters. Flynn’s defenders say he was unfairly targeted by the FBI and forced into accepting a plea deal in order to force his cooperation against President Donald Trump.
Grassley is also asking the FBI to make special agent Joe Pientka available for a transcribed interview. It is unclear exactly how Pientka is connected to the Flynn interview, though it is likely he was one of the agents who took notes during either the Flynn interview or the Comey interview. Peter Strzok was one of the FBI agents who took part in the Flynn interview. He was demoted in July 2017 for sending anti-Trump text messages to an FBI attorney.