Two former Justice Department officials who were directly involved in the Russia investigation have now spoken out publicly against Attorney General Bill Barr’s decision to drop the Michael Flynn case.
Mary McCord, who served as acting assistant attorney general for national security at the start of the probe, accused Barr of “twist[ing]” her words in the legal motions the Department filed to ask that Flynn’s case be dismissed.
Jonathan Kravis — a DOJ prosecutor who resigned after Barr meddled in the Roger Stone case — called last week’s Flynn maneuver “equally appalling.”
“In both cases, the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law,” Kravis wrote in a Monday Washington Post op-ed.
McCord, writing in the New York Times on Sunday, took issue with how the Department used an interview she gave the FBI in July 2017, describing disagreements between the FBI and DOJ leadership, to rationalize dropping the Flynn case.
“The account of my interview in 2017 doesn’t help the Department support this conclusion,” McCord wrote, referring to the Justice Department’s claim in its Flynn filings last week that the continued investigation into Flynn was not justified. “[A]nd it is disingenuous for the Department to twist my words to suggest that it does.”
Flynn plead guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI in a January 2017 interview about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Last year, having replaced his original legal team with a prominent critic of the Russia investigation, Flynn sought to withdraw that plea and get the prosecution tossed. So far, the judge in his case had viewed his allegations of prosecutorial misconduct with extreme skepticism while the Department itself denied his claims.
But on Thursday, the Department’s position changed. It said it was now dropping the case against Flynn because it claimed that FBI should have never have conducted the January 2017 interview with him in the first place. The DOJ filing pointed specifically to McCord’s recounting during her 2017 interview of a Department dispute with the FBI over how to handle the Flynn investigation.
As McCord’s Sunday op-ed highlighted, the disagreement was not over whether to continue the investigation, but whether to notify the White House of the potential blackmail risk Flynn posed by lying to top Trump administration officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. The FBI went ahead with the interview without notifying the White House, angering DOJ leaders. But McCord said Sunday the DOJ-FBI tension over that decision had “no bearing on whether Mr. Flynn’s lies to the FBI were material to the clear counterintelligence threat” posed by the potential for him to be blackmailed.
“In short, the report of my interview does not anywhere suggest that the F.B.I.’s interview of Mr. Flynn was unconstitutional, unlawful or not ‘tethered’ to any legitimate counterintelligence purpose,” she wrote.
Kravis meanwhile bashed Barr not just for the Department’s legal reversal in the Flynn case, but for how Barr “disparaged” career DOJ prosecutors in media interviews after the Stone and Flynn moves.
Kravis noted that DOJ policy and ethical obligations prevent these prosecutors from responding publicly without getting high-level permission. Kravis had resigned from the Department for its watering down of its Stone sentencing memo, and was free to issue a response.
“Barr’s decision to excuse himself from these obligations and attack his own silenced employees is alarming,” Kravis wrote. “It sends an unmistakable message to prosecutors and agents — if the president demands, we will throw you under the bus.”