Michael Flynn is trying to get his case dismissed, with his lawyers arguing that newly released FBI documents show that agents set him up before interviewing him in 2017. "What is our goal?" reads one handwritten note. "Truth and admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?" The former national security adviser eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition to the White House. Here are some early takes on the new developments, from both sides:
- Unfair: At Bloomberg, Eli Lake writes the FBI went after Flynn over obscure violations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as they say, but at the same time justice demands that the law be applied fairly and consistently," he writes. "Flynn was being squeezed for crimes that are rarely, if ever, enforced. He relented only under financial pressure and a promise that his son, who worked with him in his consulting group, would not be prosecuted." Lake wonders if Democrats would be so quick to forgive the FBI tactics if the target were in the Obama administration.
- Not unfair: The idea he was "set up" is absurd, writes Randall D. Eliason at the Washington Post. "Any witness interviewed by the FBI has essentially three choices: tell the truth, lie, or assert the right to remain silent," he writes. "The FBI had no way of knowing which option Flynn would choose when he walked into the interview. All Flynn had to do was tell the truth, or tell the agents he wasn’t comfortable talking to them. He chose instead to lie."
- Dismiss: Toss the case, writes law professor Jonathan Turley at the Hill. "These new documents further undermine the view of both the legitimacy and motivations of those investigations under former FBI director James Comey," he writes. "For all of those who have long seen a concerted effort within the Justice Department to target the Trump administration, the fragments will read like a Dead Sea Scrolls version of a 'deep state' conspiracy."
- Business as usual: Actually, "framing what happened to Flynn primarily as a 'deep state' conspiracy to take down Trump obscures the reality that this is a routine and completely legal FBI practice that will continue unless there are serious statutory reforms," writes at Scott Shackford at Reason. He points to a similar tactic used against Martha Stewart. "What the agency did to Flynn was wrong, not because he worked for Trump, but because it is wrong to induce an otherwise not-guilty person to break the law," argues Shackford. "And it's something FBI interviewers do regularly so that they can use their dishonesty as leverage when there's little evidence of actual criminal behavior."
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