Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office has filed an answer to Michael Flynn's defense team's sentencing memo wherein they claim Flynn somehow was tricked into lying to the FBI when agents went to speak with him at the White House in January 2017.
Mueller's team explains how Flynn lied before, during, and after his FBI interview – sticking to a false story even when presented the chance to come clean.
In his sentencing memorandum, the defendant cites circumstances surrounding his FBI interview on January 24, 2017, as a factor that mitigates the seriousness of his offense ... The circumstances of the defendant’s interview, which are further described below, are not mitigating. Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI on January 24.
The defendant chose to make false statements about his communications with the Russian ambassador weeks before the FBI interview, when he lied about that topic to the media, the incoming Vice President, and other members of the Presidential Transition Team. When faced with the FBI’s questions on January 24, during an interview that was voluntary and cordial, the defendant repeated the same false statements. The Court should reject the defendant’s attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI.
The defendant made his decision to lie about his communications with the Russian ambassador two weeks before his interview with the FBI. On January 12, 2017, The Washington Post published a story asserting that the defendant had spoken with the Russian ambassador on December 29, 2016, the day the United States announced sanctions and other measures against Russia in response to that government’s actions intended to interfere with the 2016 election (collectively, “sanctions”) ... The Post story asked whether the defendant had undercut the sanctions and whether his actions violated the Logan Act. The defendant asked a subordinate member of the Presidential Transition Team to contact the Post on the morning of January 13 and convey false information about the defendant’s communications with the Russian ambassador. The “UPDATE” included at the end of the Post story later reported that two members of the Presidential Transition Team stated that the defendant “didn’t cover” sanctions in his conversation with the Russian ambassador ...
Over the next two weeks, the defendant repeated the same false statements to multiple members of the Presidential Transition Team, including Vice President-Elect Michael Pence, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Those officials then repeated the defendant’s false statements on national television.
Thus, by the time of the FBI interview, the defendant was committed to his false story.
The circumstances of the defendant’s interview also show that his decision to make false statements was voluntary and intentional. The FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe, informed the defendant about the topic of the interview ... (McCabe called defendant to arrange the interview and explained that the FBI needed to talk to him in light of the “media coverage and public discussion about his recent contacts with Russian representatives.”). When the defendant asked McCabe if the questions would concern “his contact with the Russian Ambassador to the United States,” McCabe confirmed they would ... During the interview, the FBI agents gave the defendant multiple opportunities to correct his false statements by revisiting key questions. When the defendant said he did not remember something they knew he said, they used the exact words the defendant had used in order to prompt a truthful response ... But the defendant never corrected his false statements.
A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents. He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth. The defendant undoubtedly was aware, in light of his “many years” working with the FBI, that lying to the FBI carries serious consequences.
The defendant agreed to meet with the FBI agents, without counsel, and answer their questions. His obligation to provide truthful information came with that agreement; it did not turn on the presence of counsel. Moreover, as the defendant has admitted, weeks after the January 24 interview, he made materially false statements in filings he provided to another branch of the Department of Justice pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) ... The defendant made those false statements while represented by counsel and after receiving an explicit warning that providing false information was a federal offense.
Finally, the interviewing agents did not observe indicia of deception and had the impression at that time that the defendant was not lying or did not think he was lying ... Members of the Presidential Transition Team were likewise misled by the defendant’s false denials. Those misimpressions do not change the fact—as the defendant has admitted in sworn testimony to this District Court—that he was indeed lying, and knowingly made false statements to FBI agents in a national security investigation. Those false statements were material, including by raising the question of why he was lying to the FBI, the Vice President, and others.
In spite of all this, the memo concludes with a restatement of the government's stance that Flynn should receive the lowest sentence possible, suggesting the substance of Flynn's testimony was of great significance to the special counsel's investigation.
The seriousness of the defendant’s offense cannot be called into question, and the Court should reject his attempt to minimize it. While the circumstances of the interview do not present mitigating considerations, assuming the defendant continues to accept responsibility for his actions, his cooperation and military service continue to justify a sentence at the low end of the guideline range.
The FBI agents' notes about their Flynn interview are attached to the memo for reference.
Mr. Flynn’s bid to blame investigators appeared to be directed at Mr. Trump, who seized on the details and defended Mr. Flynn on Thursday on Twitter and on Fox News. “They convinced him he did lie, and he made some kind of a deal,” Mr. Trump said in the television interview.