The revelation of internal FBI documents unsealed last Wednesday show that senior officials assigned to the "Russia" or "Mueller" probe discussed inappropriate motivations for interviewing then-National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn at the White House in January of 2017.
The documents show that FBI leaders questioned if their "goal" was "to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired."
The discovery of the notes written by FBI former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap following his meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe suggested that agents planned in the alternative to get Flynn "to admit to breaking the Logan Act" when he spoke to the Russian Ambassador during the presidential transition period then went on to ask "What is our goal?" one of the notes read. "Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?"
Gen. Michael Flynn's attorney believes that this evidence presents grounds for the judge to vacate her client's plea and conviction. What is obvious from the notes is that the tactics used by Gen. Flynn were far beyond the scope of an investigation into since-debunked allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to commit election fraud.
Unfortunately, public reaction to this damaging evidence of abuse of power falls along partisan lines. Many on the left, blinded by a bias against President Trump extending to his appointees, dismissed the revelation of Priestap’s notes in the same way that they dismissed the messages between FBI Assi stant Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Lawyer Lisa Page and her lover Peter Strzok, an agent who played a lead role in the FBI’s Russia investigation as "off-handed" — comments that are indicative of any larger pattern of misconduct in the criminal justice system.
However, when it comes to politically-charged cases — the types of abuses in the Flynn case have been seen before. While current focus is on the FBI, its parent agency, the Department of Justice actually bears a huge responsibility in allowing this to occur. This is because every case in this manner is investigated by the law enforcement agency in the close coordination and supposed oversight of the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorneys offices for prosecution.
These U.S. attorneys have almost unchecked discretion in their "green-lighting" cases for further investigation, how harsh or leniently they can charge and prosecute in contrast to their state and local counterparts.
When considering that, since 1992, there is no federal civil rights restoration remedy short of a presidential pardon and federal prisons have no early parole — the burden is on the U.S. attorney to assure that federal prosecutions are fair and outside political influence.
Therefore, what is clear from not just the Flynn case, but other noteworthy examples, is that the federal system needs a post-conviction review process to assure that the lives of those accused weren’t worries by overzealous prosecutors or investigators.
Consider the examples of recent pardon recipients like former Navy Sailor Kristian Saucier. Saucier was sentenced to a year in prison for mistakenly taking pictures of the sub he was serving aboard for his family. Many felt the Saucier prosecution was a politically influenced to demonstrate a government prosecution for leaking classified material as it occurred at the same time as Hillary Clinton was not indicted for her email scandal.
Then there is former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who despite serving in command of the nation’s largest police agency through the 9/11 attacks, was prosecuted on tax related charges and sentenced to 48 months in federal prison following an 18 month investigation into his not declaring home improvements he received from a friend’s company as well as money he made overseas while serving in Iraq’s interim government.
What both of these cases had in common was the fact that, had Kerik not been President George W. Bush’s nominee for Homeland Security Secretary and Saucier not had the unfortunate timing of inadvertently sending classified information in the same time period as the Clinton Email matter, these cases would have likely been pled down to misdemeanors or even settled with administrative fines or military reprimands.
Then there’s Don Ayala, the former Army Ranger considered to be one of the best protection operators in the world. Ayala, who formerly protected Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was convicted of manslaughter in U.S. district court in Virginia for shooting an enemy combatant who had just burned an American female sociologist alive . . . in Afghanistan.
Regardless of the fact that Ayala was a civilian and the killing occurred in Afghanistan, he was tried in Virginia as an example of President Obama’s new policy on overseas contractors.
Then, in the fairness of disclosing my own bias in writing this, there’s my experience.
In 2003, while serving with the D.C. Police, I made the mistake of getting into a doxxing spat on a police message board. In an effort to curry favor with the media, Chief Charles Ramsey violated personnel rules and attempted to fire me.
When federal arbitrators awarded a full, retroactive reinstatement; D.C. Government delayed the paperwork and refused to issue a gun permit, despite my having one in Virginia where I resided. When I broke up a fight at a restaurant and called police for assistance, I ended up being the one charged for carrying my Virginia-licensed gun in D.C.; despite working for Homeland Security at the time and pending reinstatement to the very department that charged me.
In my case and Ayala’s, U.S. attorneys made examples out of us.
Had Ayala not been an American citizen, there wouldn’t have been any jurisdiction to charge him for a crime in the U.S.
Similarly, had the D.C. Government not been trying defend their later-to-be ruled unconstitutional gun law; maybe calls made to the U.S. attorney to take my pending reinstatement, neighboring permit and discrepancies in eyewitness accounts of the incident in question would have been considered. Either way, lifelong damage to the reputations of men who spent a lifetime of service could have been avoided if those working for the Department of Justice were focused on the specifics of the case and not their outside political ramifications therein.
One can surmise by examining these examples that U.S. attorneys are not immune to political bias, intentional or otherwise, when prosecuting a case. However, if we lose trust our nation’s law enforcement personnel to act impartially, then the miscarriages of justice highlighted here may persist.
This is why it’s vital for President Trump to exonerate Gen. Flynn, and then create a board that can review cases like these, restoring the good name to people who made an isolated mistake, and/or may have been pressured into taking a plea for something that they should have had their day in court for.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his two and a half decade career on both sides the criminal justice system. Mannes served in both federal and municipal law enforcement in though the 9/11 attacks, D.C.-area sniper task force, homeland security exercises and natural disasters. Mannes’ work in D.C. led to personal encounters with the D.C.’s unlawful personnel actions, unconstitutional gun laws and criminal justice inequalities; which led him to become an advocate for public integrity. Thereafter, Mannes served for nearly nine years as the Director, Office of Investigations for North America’s largest medical board, as a Chief Compliance Officer, consultant, expert witness, nonprofit board member and political adviser. Read A. Benjamin Mannes' Reports — More Here.
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