Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday he is “inclined, more than ever,” to believe that former national security adviser Mike Flynn unintentionally misled him in early 2017 about his contact with the Russian ambassador before President Trump took office.
“I'm inclined, more than ever, to believe that what he communicated to me during the transition leading to our inauguration -- that was unintentional and not that he was not attempting to misrepresent facts,” the vice president said after a tour of a General Motors plant in Indiana.
He was wearing a mask this time -- after coming under fire for failing to do so earlier this week during a visit to the Mayo Clinic.
“When you see the nature of abusive actions by Justice Department officials toward him, it’s deeply troubling,” Pence continued. He said that his office would continue to look into “investigative abuse” towards Flynn by the Justice Department.
Trump was told six days into his presidency that FBI agents found his national security adviser had misled the vice president about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, where Flynn asked Russia not to retaliate to sanctions levied against the nation in the waning days of the Obama presidency.
In 2017, Pence had said he was “disappointed” to learn the retired general had withheld information from him and supported Trump’s decision to ask for his resignation.
In late 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to Strzok and another agent during that White House interview. But he has yet to be sentenced, as his team has sought to withdraw his guilty plea, citing "egregious" FBI misconduct.
Pence’s Thursday remarks followed a number of new developments in the Flynn case this week. Documents unsealed Thursday indicate that Peter Strzok -- the now-disgraced former head of FBI counterintelligence -- ordered the investigation of former national security adviser Flynn to remain open even after it was slated to be closed due to a lack of so-called "derogatory" information.
The materials surfaced just a day after explosive FBI communications revealed that top bureau officials discussed their motivations for interviewing Flynn in the White House on January 24, 2017 -- and openly questioned if their "goal" was "to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired."
Those handwritten notes -- written by the FBI's former head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap, Fox News is told -- suggested that agents planned in the alternative to get Flynn "to admit to breaking the Logan Act" when he spoke to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition period. The Logan Act has never been used in a criminal prosecution and has a questionable constitutional status; it was enacted in 1799 in an era before telephones and 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.
On Thursday, President Trump said he would “certainly consider” bringing Flynn back into his administration, and he believed Flynn would be “fully exonerated” in light of the new evidence.