In traditional scandal management style, a less redacted portion of the House Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election (posted here by Chairman Nunes, embedded below via Scribd) escaped the bureaucracy late yesterday afternoon as we headed into the weekend. Byron York’s story on this version of the report is time-stamped 5:49 p.m.
The Federalist’s Sean Davis has posted before and after looks at the report in a series of linked tweets. The tweet below (posted here) is the first in Davis’s linked series. I recommend that interested readers review the comparisons Davis has posted. In the case of James Comey, the FBI’s redactions reflected “a higher loyalty” to James Comey and his colleagues. As Davis puts it in another tweet, this is the point: “It’s clear that DOJ/FBI demanded significant redactions not to protect national security or sources/methods, but to protect potentially corrupt officials from accountability for their actions before and after Trump’s election.”
The most recent unclassified version of the House Intel Committee's report exposes how DOJ and FBI improperly use redactions to protect people like James Comey from public scrutiny. The before/after versions show what dirty pool DOJ/FBI were playing. Examples forthcoming…
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) May 4, 2018
The newly unredacted portions disclose previously unknown information about what then-FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers about the Michael Flynn investigation. Byron’s summary focuses on the Flynn interview about which he has been asked in the course of his never ending book tour:
Comey briefed the House in March 2017. In that briefing, he told members that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn, then the national security adviser, “saw nothing that indicated to them that [Flynn] knew he was lying to them.” But the House report also says the FBI’s then-deputy director, Andrew McCabe, called the Flynn case a “conundrum,” because while the FBI agents did not see anything to indicate Flynn was lying, Flynn’s statements were nevertheless at odds with what the FBI knew about a wiretapped conversation between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.
“Director Comey testified to the committee that ‘the agents…discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them,'” the report says, quoting Comey.
McCabe, the report continues, “confirmed the interviewing agent’s initial impression and stated that the ‘conundrum that we faced on their return from the interview is that although [the agents] didn’t detect deception in the statements that he made in the interview … the statements were inconsistent with our understanding of the conversation that he had actually had with the ambassador.'”
But McCabe specifically noted the agents’ reaction. “The two people who interviewed [Flynn] didn’t think he was lying, [which] was not [a] great beginning of a false statement case,” McCabe told the committee, according to the report.
In late November 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI — a development that surprised some lawmakers who had come away from the Comey briefing believing that Flynn would not be charged.
Comey has been asked about the matter in some of the publicity interviews he has given for his new book, A Higher Loyalty. In those interviews, Comey has denied telling lawmakers that the agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe Flynn had lied.
“No,” Comey told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “I don’t know what — maybe someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that and didn’t say that.”
“Not true,” Comey told NBC’s Chuck Todd.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Comey told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “That — unless I’m — 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.”
The newly released portions do not resolve all the questions about the Comey-Flynn episode. Did Comey think that the agents were wrong, and that their normal practices to detect deception had just not worked with Flynn, and that Flynn was in fact lying? Did Comey believe that Flynn had honestly forgotten some of the things the agents asked about? Was there some other explanation?
The quotations from the report in Byron’s summary reflect the now unredacted portions pages 53-54.