House Intelligence Committee Republicans, in their newly released report concluding their Russia investigation, seemed to back up reports that FBI agents did not think ex-White House national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to them – despite his eventual guilty plea for making false statements.
Among the 44 findings in the report was a line stating that “Federal Bureau of Investigation agents did not detect any deception during Flynn's interview.”
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York first reported earlier this year that fired FBI boss James Comey had briefed lawmakers amid allegations Flynn had lied to Vice President Pence about conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and speculation he may have misled FBI agents who questioned him in January 2017. Comey reportedly told lawmakers at the time that agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe he lied in that Jan. 24 meeting, and that any inaccuracies in his account were unintentional.
Fast-forward to December, after the probe takeover by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Flynn would plead guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI during that meeting.
The House Intelligence Committee report, which was disputed by Democrats and released over their objections, provides virtually no public information to back up its conclusion about Flynn’s interactions with the agents – as most of the section explaining that finding is redacted. (Committee Republicans have blasted the intelligence community over heavy redactions throughout the report.)
The public portion of the report does not make clear where that information came from – whether from Comey or another source.
Comey, however, denied that he ever told lawmakers agents didn’t believe Flynn intentionally lied.
“No,” he said in an interview Thursday with Fox News’ Bret Baier on “Special Report.” “I saw that in the media … maybe someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that. I didn’t say that.”
Flynn lost his job over the Russia contacts controversy -- and as recently as December, even President Trump claimed Flynn had "lied" to agents.
But last week, Trump defended Flynn as he castigated Comey, saying Flynn’s life has been “totally destroyed” while “shadey” James Comey can “Leak and Lie” and make “lots of money” from his newly released memoir.
Mueller’s team, meanwhile, has sought to delay Flynn’s sentencing, and is expected to file another joint-status report by May 1, following a special counsel motion on Feb. 1, 2018 suggesting they did not “believe that this matter is ready to be scheduled for a sentencing hearing at this time.”
The delay was one of several curious developments in the proceedings. Days after accepting his guilty plea, the judge assigned to the case, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras, recused himself from the case, and was replaced by Judge Emmet Sullivan.
The release of Friday’s report was heavily opposed by Democrats.
“Notwithstanding the decision by the Majority to end its work and turn its attention to counter-investigations designed to serve the President’s interests, the Minority’s work on the Russia investigation continues,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement Friday. “We will continue our investigation using every means at our disposal; to do otherwise would ignore our responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight and insure that the Russians do not possess leverage over the President of the United States.”
Schiff and committee Democrats released their minority view report Friday, where Schiff said they "correct the record on a raft of misleading conclusions, insinuations, attempts to explain away inconvenient facts, and arguments meant to protect the President and his campaign found in the Republican report."
Fox News’ Megan Woods, Brooke Singman, Adam Shaw and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.