FBI Director Christopher Wray is facing mounting criticism from Republicans in Washington in the wake of new information coming out of former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn’s criminal case that called into question the bureau’s intentions in their investigation, which took place under previous FBI leadership.
Unsealed documents included handwritten notes from former FBI official Bill Priestap that showed there was debate over whether the goal of their interview of Flynn should be to catch him in a lie. Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Mike Johnson, R-La., questioned why this information was first getting out now and had not been divulged by Wray earlier.
“It is well past time that you show the leadership necessary to bring the FBI past the abuses of the Obama-Biden era,” they said in a letter to Wray Monday.
Wednesday morning, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway called on Wray to speak with James Comey, who was FBI director during the Flynn investigation, and go public with information about that case.
“We have every need to know transparently what happened,” Conway told Fox News.
Wray’s office issued a statement Tuesday explaining that the FBI director has “fully cooperated and been transparent” with a review of the FBI’s handling of the Flynn case that had been ordered by Attorney General Bill Barr, and that he had already released the information about Flynn’s interview to two investigations of the origins of the Russia investigation – one by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and another that is still being carried out by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham.
Sources told Axios over the weekend that President Trump himself has grown dissatisfied with Wray and doubts whether he could change the FBI’s culture. The report said Trump would like to fire Wray, but that this is unlikely to happen before the upcoming presidential election, as the president is deferring to Barr.
The statement from Wray’s office said that the director is indeed interested in holding those responsible for any past misdeeds accountable for their actions.
“Director Wray remains firmly committed to addressing the failures under prior FBI leadership while maintaining the foundational principles of rigor, objectivity, accountability and ownership in fulfilling the bureau’s mission to protect the American people and defend the Constitution,” Wray’s office said.
The handwritten notes from Priestap — penned after a meeting with Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Fox News is told — said of the interview: “What is our goal? … Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
They also 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 is an obscure statute that has never been successfully used in a criminal prosecution; enacted in 1799, it was intended to prevent individuals from falsely claiming to represent the United States government abroad.
The memo appears to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing those different paths. “I don’t see how getting someone to admit their wrongdoing is going easy on him,” one note reads. Flynn did not ultimately admit to wrongdoing in the interview. He later pleaded guilty to giving false statements, a plea his legal team is now trying to take back.