Attorney General Bill Barr is defending the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn, saying President Trump’s former national security adviser did not commit a crime.
In his first public comments since Thursday’s stunning reversal, Barr defended Flynn, who admitted lying to FBI investigators regarding his contacts during the Russia probe, while denying that he was working at the behest of President Trump.
“Well, you know, people sometimes plead to things that turn out not to be crimes,” Barr told CBS in an exclusive interview. “And the Department of Justice is not persuaded that this was material to any legitimate counterintelligence investigation. So it was not a crime.”
Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying about two contacts he had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He later tried to withdraw that plea ahead of sentencing, claiming he did not intentionally lie.
Barr denied doing President Trump’s “bidding” in Flynn’s case, insisting the decision was “easy” to make — and a determination he made without consulting the commander-in-chief.
“I’m doing my duty under the law, as I see it,” Barr said.
Barr, who accused FBI officials of setting a “perjury trap” for Flynn, said he’s prepared for political blowback regarding his decision.
“Yeah, I’m prepared for that,” Barr told CBS’ Catherine Herridge. “I also think it’s sad that nowadays these partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice. And the groups that usually worry about civil liberties and making sure that there’s proper procedures followed and standards seem to be ignoring it and willing to destroy people’s lives and see great injustices done.”
Asked a second time about Flynn’s admittance that he lied to the FBI, Barr again reiterated that people “sometimes plead to things” that later turn out not to be illegal.
“And as I said, the question of lying, you know, it’s something he would know about,” Barr said. “On its face, as [former FBI] Director [James] Comey said, it’s not so clear. But the question of materiality is not something he would know about. That’s something that the government knows about. And we have now gotten into it, drilled down, obtained new information.”