What the FBI thought about Michael Flynn

Byron York: On James Comey and what the FBI thought about Michael Flynn

Comey Book
During his recent interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, former FBI Director James Comey appeared to contradict his testimony before lawmakers regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
(Ralph Alswang/ABC via AP)

Did Comey tell lawmakers that? Here is the exchange between Comey and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s been some reporting that — at —at — at one point you told the Congress that the agents who interviewed Mike Flynn didn’t believe that he had lied.
 
COMEY: Yeah, I saw that. And that — I don’t know where that’s coming from. That — unless I’m — I — I — said something that people misunderstood, I don’t remember even intending to say that. So my recollection is I never said that to anybody.

Comey’s statement directly contradicts this report, by me, from Feb. 12:

According to two sources familiar with the meetings, Comey told lawmakers that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe that Flynn had lied to them, or that any inaccuracies in his answers were intentional. As a result, some of those in attendance came away with the impression that Flynn would not be charged with a crime pertaining to the Jan. 24 interview.

So who is right? There are a few things to note. One, in findings from the Russia investigation released in advance of its still-unreleased final report, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee included this:

Finding #22: General Flynn pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding his December 2016 conversations with Ambassador Kislyak, even though the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents did not detect any deception during Flynn’s interview.

That seems to indicate a substantial misunderstanding, or just a straight-out conflict, between what the House concluded about the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn and what Comey says he told lawmakers.

How to clear things up? As it turns out, sources say the Comey-House Intel meeting at issue was transcribed. There is a word-for-word record of what Comey was asked and what he said. It seems reasonable to infer — can’t say anything definite yet, but infer — that Finding #22, quoted above, does not contradict what Comey said in the interview nor did lawmakers make up a finding out of whole cloth.

It is also reasonable to infer that the Republicans’ final report on the Trump-Russia investigation — it has long been finished but is still with the intelligence community, being cleared for classified information — might discuss its findings, including Finding #22, in greater length.

The bottom line is, it appears there will be an answer soon enough to the question about what Comey said in the ABC interview.

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