Former FBI Director James Comey admitted in a recent interview that he personally made the decision to send a pair of agents to interview President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn in 2017, and acknowledged the arrangement was not typical for dealing with a White House official.
The new details about that fateful interview -- which led to criminal charges against Flynn -- come as a federal judge ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team late Wednesday to turn over all the government's documents related to Flynn's questioning, ahead of sentencing.
Asked to describe how two FBI agents ended up at the White House to interview Flynn in January 2017, Comey, speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace during a forum discussion Sunday, said flatly: “I sent them.”
Comey went on to acknowledge the way the interview was set up – not through the White House counsel’s office, but arranged directly with Flynn – was not standard practice. He called it “something I probably wouldn't have done or maybe gotten away with in a more … organized administration.”
Describing how it is usually done, Comey said, “If the FBI wanted to send agents into the White House itself to interview a senior official, you would work through the White House counsel, and there would be discussions and approvals and who would be there.”
Recalling his decision to bypass those steps, Comey said, “I thought: ‘It’s early enough, let’s just send a couple guys over.’”
The January 2017 interview with the FBI is the basis of Flynn’s guilty plea to making false statements in a deal with Mueller's team. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about whether he had talked to former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016 on limiting the Russian government's response to former President Barack Obama's recently imposed sanctions for election meddling. Flynn was pushed out shortly after his interview for misleading Vice President Pence and other officials about those contacts.
But according to Flynn's legal team, FBI agents in his case did not instruct Flynn that any false statements he made could constitute a crime and decided not to "confront" him directly about anything he said that contradicted their knowledge of his wiretapped communications with Kislyak.
Earlier this week, Flynn's legal team also made the allegation that the FBI had pushed him not to bring a lawyer to his interview with agents at the White House.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered Mueller late Wednesday to turn over all of the government's documents and "memoranda" related to Flynn's questioning.
Flynn's sentencing is set for Tuesday. Mueller's team has already suggested to the court that Flynn be spared jail time, citing his cooperation.
But Sullivan's demand puts Mueller under the microscope, and sets a 3 p.m. ET Friday deadline for the special counsel's office to produce the sensitive FBI documents.
Sullivan -- who overturned the 2008 conviction of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens after government misconduct came to light -- is weighing how to sentence Flynn, who pleaded guilty to one count of lying to federal authorities during the 2017 interview in the West Wing. Flynn faced mounting legal bills that forced him to sell his home amid the prosecution.
On Thursday, President Trump tweeted about Flynn’s case, saying, “They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated -- the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI. They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements.”
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and Gregg Re contributed to this report.