An FBI agent who was assigned to the bureau’s investigation into Michael Flynn in 2016 told the Justice Department that he believes there was never a valid predicate for the Russia probe, and that the prosecution of Flynn was just a means to “get Trump.” The agent also claims in the explosive new interview transcripts that he overheard members of the Special Counsel team joking about “wiping” their phones.
🚨Flynn update – Interview 302 from FBI Agent William Barnett
"BARNETT believed the prosecution of FLYNN by SCO (Team Mueller) was used as a means to 'get Trump'"
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) September 25, 2020
Agent William Barnett, who played a lead role in the Flynn investigation (codenamed Operation Razor), was interviewed by Justice Department prosecutors earlier this month. Last year, Attorney General Bill Barr asked Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeffrey Jensen to review the case against Flynn.
Barnett told Jensen’s investigators that he thought the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe was “opaque” and “with little detail concerning specific evidence of criminal events.”
“Barnett thought the case theory was ‘supposition on supposition,’” the investigators wrote in the 302, adding that he believed the “predication” of Operation Hurricane was “not great,” and “a dead end. He said that it “was not clear” what the “persons opening the case wanted to ‘look for or at’” and that various theories were “groping.”
After six weeks of investigating, Barnett said he was “still unsure of the basis of the investigation concerning Russia and the Trump campaign without a specific criminal allegation.”
After the 2016 election, Barnett said he asked other agents on the Flynn case what they thought “the end game” was, and suggested that they interview the general and close the case “unless derogatory information was obtained.” Remarkably, he said he was “cautioned against” an interview of Flynn, because the other agents were afraid it would “alert Flynn as to the investigation.”
Barnett said he argued that Flynn’s position as White House national security adviser in the incoming Trump administration “offered an opportunity for the FBI to conduct the interview without alerting any suspicion and Flynn would see such an interview as being standard procedure.”
The agent saw the interview with Flynn as a “last step taken prior to closing the case,” which he believed to be a dead end. Barnett’s request for an interview with Flynn went “up the chain,” according to the 302, but his request was denied.
Barnett said that between Christmas and New years of 2016, he was told to close the Razor investigation, and so he began working on a document to close the case. He said he wanted to include in the report non-derogatory information that had turned up during the investigation, and his request for an interview, but those requests were denied.
On January 4, Barnett says an analyst on the case emailed him with additional information for his closing document. Later that day, Barnett received a message from another agent, asking him to not close the file because then-special agent Peter Strzok had new information regarding Flynn, presumably the transcript between Trump’s incoming national security advisor and the Russian ambassador.
Barnett said that after reading the [REDACTED] two times, that he did not see the significance of the new information, or what “the rub” was. He said that he was told it was a potential Logan Act violation, which he didn’t view as a “serious, stand alone charge.”
Barnett says he had no part of the eventual FBI interview (ambush) of Flynn at the White House on January 25, and was not even told about it ahead of time. When he heard about it, he said he assumed that it was just a “check the box” interview to close the case (rather than to set Flynn up.) In hindsight, he said that he believes that he was “cut out” of the interview.
In early February 2017, Barnett requested that he be taken off the case, which he believed by this time was “problematic and could result in an inspector general investigation.”
“Barnett still did not see any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government,” the 302 states. “Barnett was willing to follow any instructions being given by the deputy director as long as it was not a violation of the law.”
Barnett described the FBI’s investigation into Flynn as “top down” as “direction concerning the investigation was coming from senior officials,” naming specifically then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Barnett, in the spring of 2017, was asked to give a briefing on the Flynn investigation to a group of attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, including Jeanne Rhee.
“Barnett said he briefly went over the investigation, including the assessment that there was no evidence of a crime, and then discussed [REDACTED], which he thought was the more significant investigation,” the 302 stated.
Barnett told investigators that he thought “Rhee was obsessed with Flynn and Russia and she had an agenda.”
A day following the briefing, Barnett said he was contacted by former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who said “he really wanted Barnett to work with the special counsel’s office.”
Barnett said he told Strzok that he “did not wish to pursue the collusion investigation as it was ‘not there,'” Ultimately, however, Barnett decided to work with Mueller’s team, “hoping his perspective would keep them from ‘group think.’”
According to the 302, Barnett said that he believed the appointment of Mueller in May 2017 “changed everything.” He described the Mueller probe as “‘upside down’ with attorneys drafting search warrants and getting agents to simply act as affiants,” the 302 stated.
“Barnett thought there was a ‘get Trump’ attitude by some at the SCO,” the 302 continued.
One example Barnett shared was comments made by the president, saying investigators “needed to ‘get to the bottom’ of a matter. One of the SCO attorneys said Trump wanted to ‘cover it up.’”
Barnett “corrected it saying, ‘no, he said get to the bottom of it.’”
Another example Barnett recalled ”was when the president fired FBI Director James Comey, which he said was interpreted as “obstruction when it could just as easily have been done because Trump did not like Comey and wanted him replaced.”
Barnett went on to tell investigators that it seemed that the attorneys on Mueller’s team “wanted to be part of something ‘big,’ a successful prosecution.”
“There was a lack of letting the evidence lead the investigation and more the attitude of ‘the evidence is there we just have to find it,’” Barnett’s 302 stated.
Meanwhile, Barnett said that in May 2017, former Trump campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were interviewed several times. Barnett said “both investigations seemed to be nearing an end with nothing left to pursue.”
Papadopoulos was ultimately charged with making false statements to investigators as part of Mueller’s investigation.
Barnett also described how the special counsel team tried to railroad former deputy White House national security adviser KT McFarland, who the SCO believed was “the key to everything.”’ During the interview, some of Mueller’s deputies tried to get McFarland to change her story to fit their Russia collusion theory, Barnett said.
McFarland said in a radio interview last February that Mueller’s team pressured her through hell to either cop a plea or implicate other Trump associates in crimes, even though she didn’t think she or they did anything wrong. She said the contentious interrogation actually left her “traumatized.”
“They gave me the distinct impression after … 20, 30, 40 hours of hell that they wanted me to either plead guilty to a crime I didn’t feel I committed, or to talk about other people having done things that I didn’t think they had done,” she explained at the time.
“Barnett said it seems there was always someone at SCO who claimed to have a lead on information that would prove collusion, only to have the information be a dead end,” the 302 stated.
According to the 302, Barnett said the SCO issued him a cellular phone, which he said he did not “wipe.” Barnett said he did overhear other agents “comically” talking about wiping their SCO-issued cellular phones.
After months of being hounded and threatened by Mueller’s deputies, Flynn in December of 2017, finally pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador.
Barnett said “some individuals” in Mueller’s office “assumed Flynn was lying to cover up collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
“Barnett believed Flynn lied in his interview to save his job, as that was the most plausible explanation and there was no evidence to contradict it,” the 302 states. “Barnett believed the prosecution of Flynn by Mueller’s office was used as a means to ‘get Trump.'”
The government’s filing of Barnett’s 302 in the Flynn docket comes just days before Flynn’s team and Justice Department attorneys will present arguments before Judge Emmet Sullivan with the hopes that he will dismiss the case.
Federal prosecutors, earlier this year, moved to dismiss Flynn’s case — in which he had previously pleaded guilty to providing false statements to the FBI — after FBI records called into question the circumstances surrounding Flynn’s interview with investigators. The Justice Department maintained that the FBI’s interview of Flynn was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
Flynn is scheduled to be in federal court in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 29.