Michael Flynn is celebrating the newest developments in his case, as the Justice Department unsealed FBI files revealing agents discussed their motivations for interviewing him in the Russia probe—questioning whether they wanted to “get him to lie” so he'd be fired or prosecuted, or get him to admit wrongdoing.
But whether or not this leads to his vindication legally, the case has come at an enormous cost for the retired three-star Army lieutenant general and his family, as he racked up millions of dollars in legal bills, was forced to sell his house, lost his job, and saw his reputation sullied.
Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell told Fox News on Thursday that in light of the new internal FBI documents, “this persecution will have to be thrown out entirely.”
Fox News is told more supposedly exculpatory documents are forthcoming, as Attorney General Bill Barr continues to look over the DOJ's investigation into the handling of the Flynn case.
But while the information revealed this week could change the state of play for the case altogether -- with the outcome in court unclear as he tries to withdraw his guilty plea, and the possibility of a pardon looming as well -- it comes after a costly saga.
Flynn was fired from his prominent post as national security adviser in February 2017—after his interview with the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017. The resignation came as he was accused of misleading Vice President Pence and other senior White House officials about his communications with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn’s communications with Kislyak in December 2016 had been picked up in wiretapped discussions, unbeknownst to him. The FBI agents in January 2017 questioned him on the communications, and later used his answers to form the basis for the false statement charge and his guilty plea.
Flynn's supporters have insisted he is innocent but was forced to plead guilty when his son was threatened with prosecution and he exhausted his financial resources.
Powell told Fox News on Thursday that Flynn paid his first law firm, Covington & Burling, approximately $3.5 million. It is unclear the total amount of Flynn’s legal bills, but reports suggested last year that he had more than $4.6 million in unpaid legal bills at that time.
In December 2017, and on the brink of financial ruin, Flynn was forced to put his home in Old Town Alexandria, Va.—located just outside Washington D.C.—on the market with an asking price of $895,000 to pay his mounting legal bills.
According to Zillow, the townhouse sold for $819,995 in September 2018. Powell confirmed the sale of the house to Fox News.
Flynn's siblings said any money made from the sale of the Virginia home would go toward Flynn’s legal fees.
Meanwhile, Flynn’s siblings set up a legal defense fund for him to collect donations from supporters, but did not use a crowdfunding platform like GoFundMe to reveal how much money has been raised.
"The costs of legal representation associated with responding to the multiple investigations that have arisen in the wake of the 2016 election place a great burden on Mike and his family," the website for the legal fund said.
The documents, unsealed late Wednesday, revealed that top FBI officials openly questioned if their “goal” was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
The handwritten notes—written by the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap after a meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Fox News is told—further suggested that agents planned in the alternative to get Flynn “to admit to breaking the Logan Act” when he spoke to Kislyak during the presidential transition period.
The Logan Act is an obscure statute that has never been used in a criminal prosecution; enacted in 1799 in an era before telephones, it was intended to prevent individuals from falsely claiming to represent the United States government abroad.
"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?”
"If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ + have them decide," another note read. Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley called the document's implications “chilling."
The memo appears to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing those different paths. "I don't see how getting someone to admit their wrongdoing is going easy on him," one note reads. Flynn did not ultimately admit to wrongdoing in the interview.
The document indicates that the agents at least discussed the merits of a by-the-book approach: "If we’re seen as playing games, WH [White House] will be furious.”
The Justice Department turned over the documents Wednesday, even though a February 2018 standing order in the case from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia required the government to turn over any exculpatory materials in its possession that pertained to Flynn. Such materials ordinarily do not need to be disclosed to uncharged individuals or those who have already pleaded guilty, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has ruled.
Prosecutors last year rejected claims they were hiding evidence, saying "the government has exceeded its discovery and disclosure obligations in this matter," including by providing Flynn with thousands of pages of documents.
Federal prosecutors at the time called the defense's filings a “fishing expedition.”
Flynn, who pleaded guilty to making false statements about his communications with Kislyak, previously said that FBI officials pressed him not to have the White House counsel present during questioning with two agents that led to his guilty plea. Flynn was not charged with any violation of the Logan Act.
Earlier this year, Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea for making false statements to the FBI. His legal team, at the time, said that the move was “because of the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness and breach of the plea agreement.”
The Department of Justice, in February, also tapped U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeff Jensen to review the case. The timeline of that investigation is unclear at this point.
Meanwhile, President Trump last month floated a “full pardon” for Flynn.
“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” the president tweeted Thursday morning.
Fox News' Gregg Re contributed to this report.