Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday defended his decision to drop the prosecution of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn amid efforts by the retired Army general to withdraw his guilty plea for lying to the FBI.
“Well, you know, people sometimes plead to things that turn out not to be crimes,” Barr told CBS News.
“And the Department of Justice is not persuaded that this was material to any legitimate counterintelligence investigation. So it was not a crime.”
Barr denied carrying out President Trump’s “bidding,” saying he was “doing my duty under the law, as I see it.”
Barr also said he was unconcerned about political blowback, arguing that “partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice.”
“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,” he added.
Later Friday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said documents released by prosecutors on Thursday appeared to show that FBI officials entrapped Flynn during an interview in January 2017.
“The FBI exists to investigate crimes. But in the case of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, it appears that they might have existed to manufacture one,” she said in a White House press briefing.
“The interrogation of Michael Flynn was not an inquiry. Make no mistake, it was a trap.”
McEnany said it was “important to take these revelations very seriously in order for Americans to have faith in our justice system.”
“If the top leadership of the FBI can target a three-star general who served this country for three decades, make no mistake, they can target you,” McEnany said. “It’s hard to believe that this happened in the United States of America.”
She tore into “disgraced FBI agent and noted Trump hater” Peter Strzok, who took part in Flynn’s interview.
Strzok and then-mistress Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer, tried to build a case claiming that Flynn had violated an obscure 1799 law called the Logan Act by communicating with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016.
The Justice Department declined to charge Flynn with violating the Logan Act because it would have been too hard to prosecute, according to the court papers filed Thursday.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his phone calls with Kislyak, but has said he didn’t lie intentionally and in January filed a motion to withdraw his plea when prosecutors sought a six-month prison sentence.
On Friday, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) introduced a bill to repeal the Logan Act, which he called “archaic” and “useless.” He named his legislation the Time to Repeal an Archaic Policy, or TRAP, Act of 2020.
Also on Friday, former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker called the end of Flynn’s prosecution “critical to restoring confidence in the Department of Justice” and blasted the conduct of former FBI Director James Comey in the case and others.
“Even though Comey was chastised by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz for violating Justice Department and FBI policies, Comey has yet to face any real legal consequences that his actions deserve,” he wrote in a column for Fox News.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats asked the Justice Department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility to open an investigation into the dropping of Flynn’s case and what they called the department’s “pattern of politicized decision-making.”
Additional reporting by Joshua Rhett Miller