Michael Flynn ex-associate pleads not guilty after charges of illegal lobbying for Turkey

An ex-business associate of former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded not guilty on Tuesday after being charged by a federal grand jury with alleged illegal lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government in the United States. Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, appeared in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia on Tuesday and … Continue reading “Michael Flynn ex-associate pleads not guilty after charges of illegal lobbying for Turkey”

An ex-business associate of former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded not guilty on Tuesday after being charged by a federal grand jury with alleged illegal lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government in the United States.

Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, appeared in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia on Tuesday and entered a not guilty plea. He requested a jury trial, which is now expected in early 2019.

Kian was charged after allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to “covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion” against a Turkish citizen living in the U.S. whose extradition had been requested by the Turkish government, according to an indictment unsealed on Monday. Kamil Ekim Alptekin of Istanbul was also charged.

That Turkish citizen is Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of directing a failed coup.

FLYNN RESPONSES IN FATEFUL WHITE HOUSE INTERVIEW DOCUMENTED IN WITNESS REPORT RELEASED BY MUELLER

The alleged plot detailed in Monday’s indictment included using a company founded by Kian, referred to in the filing as “Company A,” based upon “Person A’s” national security expertise. Person A is Michael Flynn.

According to the indictment, the purpose of the conspiracy was to use Company A to “delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of the American public and United States politicians, with the goal of obtaining his extradition, which was meeting resistance at the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Kian and Alptekin allegedly sought to conceal that the Turkish government was directing the work. According to the indictment, Turkish cabinet-level officials approved the budget for the project, and Alptekin allegedly provided Turkish officials with updates on the project.

Both Kian and Alptekin failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), under which Flynn, the former White House national security adviser, also failed to register connected with his work with Turkey. According to the indictment, Rafiekian was vice chairman of Flynn's business group, the Flynn Intel Group. The two worked throughout 2016 to seek ways to have cleric Gulen extradited from the U.S. to Turkey.

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Kian is charged with conspiracy and acting as an illegal agent of the Turkish government. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of six years in prison for conspiracy, and 10 years for the charge of acting as a foreign agent. Alptekin is also charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of Turkey, but also faces four counts of making false statements to the FBI. He faces up to 35 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates in the 2016 presidential election.

But according to Mueller’s statement of Flynn’s offense, the former national security adviser also made “materially false statements and omissions” in Foreign Agent Registration Act filings to the Justice Department regarding his lobbying projects with Turkey. In the FARA filing, Flynn allegedly falsely stated that his company, Flynn Intel Group Inc., “did not know whether or the extent to which the Republic of Turkey was involved” in a Turkey project, and that the project was focused on improving U.S. business organizations’ confidence regarding doing business in Turkey.

Mueller's office has only charged him with one count of false statements regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador. Flynn is expected in federal court later Tuesday for his sentencing hearing in connection with that charge. Earlier this month, Mueller's office recommended a lenient sentence for Flynn, with the possibility of no prison time, stating that Flynn had provided "substantial" help to federal investigators about "several ongoing investigations."

Fox News' Lillian LeCroy and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, stands by guilty plea ahead of sentencing

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn stood by his plea in federal court Tuesday after pleading guilty more than a year ago to making false statements to the FBI — but his fate was in doubt as the judge abruptly tore into the defendant during his sentencing hearing.

Before sentencing, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called Flynn and his attorneys to the stand and asked a series of questions to ensure Flynn did in fact want to plead guilty. Flynn said he did not want to withdraw his plea.

Later in the hearing, though, Sullivan ripped into Flynn, calling his plea "very serious" and accusing him of being an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as national security adviser. The judge even asked prosecutors if Flynn could have been charged with treason, which they hesitated to answer.

"Arguably, you sold your country out," Sullivan told Flynn, saying he would not hide his "disgust" or "disdain" for the offense.

The prosecution told Sullivan that Flynn played a role in the indictment this week of two Flynn associates charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey without properly registering under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). They said Flynn could have been indicted in that case had he not cooperated.

The court went into a brief recess before Sullivan proceeded to sentencing. Flynn has since returned to the courtroom.

The bureau, meanwhile, has faced mounting criticism from Trump allies in recent days over its handling of the original Flynn interview that led to the false-statement charge, after it was revealed bureau leaders discouraged Flynn from having a lawyer present and some inside the FBI had doubts about whether he intentionally lied. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team defended investigators' actions, but also urged a lenient sentence.

Ahead of the hearing, Mueller's team recommended that Flynn be spared jail time, citing his cooperation with the special counsel probe as part of a deal with prosecutors in December 2017.

The president on Tuesday expressed his support for Flynn ahead of the sentencing.

“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn,” the president tweeted. “Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!”

The sentencing follows the rapid rise – and fall – of Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who joined the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security issues in 2016.

After Trump’s election, Flynn – who had been floated as a possible running mate to Trump – was named national security adviser but his tenure at the White House was brief. Flynn was fired in February 2017 after misleading Vice President Pence and other officials about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

FLYNN RESPONSES IN FATEFUL WHITE HOUSE INTERVIEW DOCUMENTED IN WITNESS REPORT RELEASED BY MUELLER

By the end of 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak. This was in connection with a January 2017 interview by two FBI agents about those discussions with Kislyak — specifically regarding then-President Barack Obama's recently imposed sanctions for election meddling.

Out of work and under investigation, Flynn faced mounting legal bills that forced him to sell his home amid the prosecution.

At the time of his guilty plea, Flynn said in a written statement that "I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel's Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions."

But since then, questions have been raised about the FBI’s conduct in interviewing and prosecuting Flynn, and whether the former national security adviser actually deliberately lied to agents.

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Recent memos released by the FBI indicate the FBI discouraged Flynn from having an attorney present during the questioning. Those memos also show that FBI agents did not instruct Flynn that any false statements he made could constitute a crime, and decided not to "confront" him directly about anything he said that contradicted their knowledge of his wiretapped communications with Kislyak. One of the agents who conducted the Flynn interview, Peter Strzok, was later fired from the Russia probe in late July 2017 over his apparent anti-Trump bias.

Fired FBI Director James Comey also admitted earlier this month that the FBI's move not to involve the White House Counsel — which the FBI usually involves in any interviews with senior White House officials — was not standard protocol, and that the FBI felt it could get "away with" the tactic in the early days of the Trump administration.

Some Republicans have accused the FBI of misconduct over their prosecution of Flynn.

Speaking to "Fox News Sunday," Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani flatly alleged that Flynn had been "railroaded" and "framed."

"What they did to General Flynn should result in discipline," Giuliani told host Chris Wallace on Sunday. "They’re the ones who are violating the law.

Hours before Flynn was set to be sentenced, a new FD-302 witness report from the FBI was released shedding more light on Flynn’s fateful interview with the FBI — indicating Flynn issued few definitive statements in response to FBI agents' questions, and at various points suggested that such conversations might have happened or that he could not recall them if they did.

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The document stated that Flynn told agents "not really" and "I don't remember" when they asked if he had requested Kislyak and the Russians not engage in a "tit-for-tat" with the U.S. government over the Obama administration's sanctions in December 2016.

Flynn was not charged with wrongdoing as a result of the substance of his calls with the Russian ambassador.

Fox News’ Kelly Phares and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Shocking scale of Russia’s sinister social media campaign against US revealed

Russia's influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election was a sophisticated and multifaceted effort to target the African-American community and sow political division among the public across social media platforms, according to new reports produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

One report, which is 100-pages long, provides new context and details regarding the large scope of the multi-year Russian operation and the nefarious tactics it employed to exploit divisions along race and political ideology in the U.S. on a range of social media platforms, including Google-owned YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and on Facebook-owned Instagram. The shadowy effort aimed to support the Trump campaign, denigrate Hillary Clinton, suppress the vote, sow discord and attack various public figures.

According to the report released on Monday, the massive operation reached 126 million people on Facebook, posted 10.4 million tweets on Twitter, uploaded over 1,000 videos to YouTube, and reached over 20 million users on Instagram. The report states that roughly 6 percent of tweets, 18 percent of Instagram posts and 7 percent of Facebook posts mentioned Trump or Clinton by name. However, Trump was mentioned roughly twice as often as Clinton on most platforms. The report, titled "The Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency," warns that the manipulation of U.S. political discourse continues in 2018.

The report, which was commissioned by cybersecurity firm New Knowledge, Canfield Research and Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, reveals that the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian company owned by a businessman who is reportedly a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, hit on a range of themes and social issues over and over again across multiple online platforms, including Muslim culture, black culture, gun rights, LGBT issues, patriotism, Tea Party issues, veterans' rights, pro-Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein content, Christian culture and Southern culture and American separatist movements.

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However, the report says the most prolific, intense efforts centered on targeting black Americans and appear to have focused on developing audiences in that community and recruiting black Americans as "assets".

"The IRA created an expansive cross-platform media mirage targeting the Black community, which shared and cross-promoted authentic Black media to create an immersive influence ecosystem," the report states. "The IRA exploited the trust of their Page audiences to develop human assets, at least some of whom were not aware of the role they played. This tactic was substantially more pronounced on Black-targeted accounts."

The report also reveals the shocking scale of the disinformation campaign on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. “Instagram was a significant front in the IRA’s influence operation, something that Facebook executives appear to have avoided mentioning in Congressional testimony,” it says. “There were 187 million engagements on Instagram. Facebook estimated that this was across 20 million affected users. There were 76.5 million engagements on Facebook; Facebook estimated that the Facebook operation reached 126 million people.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to chair a meeting to discuss preparation to mark the anniversary of the allied victory in the World War II in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.  (AP)

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Researchers also note that in 2017, as the media covered their Facebook and Twitter operations, IRA shifted much of its activity to Instagram. “Instagram engagement outperformed Facebook, which may indicate its strength as a tool in image-centric memetic (meme) warfare. Alternately, it is possible that the IRA’s Instagram engagement was the result of click farms; a few of the provided accounts reference what appears to be a live engagement farm.”

Set against this backdrop, the study warns that Instagram is likely to be a key battleground in the future.

The themes selected by the IRA were "deployed to create and reinforce tribalism within each targeted community," according to the report, which notes that a majority of posts created by a given Facebook page reinforced in-group camaraderie. Partisan content was also presented to targeted groups in on-brand ways: for example, one meme featured Jesus in a Trump campaign hat on an account targeting Christians.

Additionally, the report notes that the IRA co-opted the names of real groups with existing reputations among the targeted communities, including "United Muslims of America," "Cop Block, Black Guns Matter," and "L for Life." Researchers said this was possibly an attempt to loosely backstop an identity if a curious individual did a Google Search, or to piggyback on an established brand.

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The influence campaign began on certain platforms several years ago. The IRA was active on Twitter as early as 2014, prior to their efforts on Facebook and Instagram. However, since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence only requested data from January 1, 2015, it's possible that some IRA content that appeared on Facebook or Instagram was simply not included in the data provided. The IRA also produced videos across 17 channels on YouTube beginning in September 2015, with most content related to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Meanwhile, a second report produced for the Senate Committee also paints a worrying picture of Russia’s influence campaign.

The study by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and social media analysis specialist Graphika notes the scale of the social media onslaught. “Between 2013 and 2018, the IRA’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter campaigns reached tens of millions of users in the United States,” it says. “IRA activities focused on the U.S. began on Twitter in 2013 but quickly evolved into a multi-platform strategy involving Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube amongst other platforms.”

Russia’s attempts to sow discord in society have continued long after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to the researchers. “IRA posts on Instagram and Facebook increased substantially after the election, with Instagram seeing the greatest increase in IRA activity.”

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A Facebook spokesperson provided Fox News with the following statement:

“Congress and the intelligence community are best placed to use the information we and others provide to determine the political motivations of actors like the Internet Research Agency. We continue to fully cooperate with officials investigating the IRA's activity on Facebook and Instagram around the 2016 election. We've provided thousands of ads and pieces of content to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for review and shared information with the public about what we found. Since then, we've made progress in helping prevent interference on our platforms during elections, strengthened our policies against voter suppression ahead of the 2018 midterms, and funded independent research on the impact of social media on democracy.”

A spokesperson from Twitter released the following statement to Fox News:

"Our singular focus is to improve the health of the public conversation on our platform, and protecting the integrity of elections is an important aspect of that mission. We’ve made significant strides since 2016 to counter manipulation of our service, including our release of additional data in October related to previously disclosed activities to enable further independent academic research and investigation.”

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the reports, although the company has previously described preventing misuse of its platform as a major focus.

"This newly released data demonstrates how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology, and how the IRA actively worked to erode trust in our democratic institutions," Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-NC, said in a statement. "Most troublingly, it shows that these activities have not stopped."

The committee's vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., released a statement that read in part:

"These attacks against our country were much more comprehensive, calculating and widespread than previously revealed. That is going to require some much-needed and long-overdue guardrails when it comes to social media.  I hope these reports will spur legislative action in the Congress and provide additional clarity to the American public about Russia’s assault on our democracy.”

The report by New Knowledge, Canfield Research and Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism, also notes that the efforts by social media platforms to crack down on bots may not be enough.

"Now that automation techniques (e.g. bots) are better policed, the near future will be a return to the past: we’ll see increased human-exploitation tradecraft and narrative laundering," the report states in its conclusion. "We should certainly expect to see recruitment, manipulation, and influence attempts targeting the 2020 election, including the inauthentic amplification of otherwise legitimate American narratives, as well as a focus on smaller/secondary platforms and peer-to-peer messaging services."

Russia has repeatedly denied meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Christopher Carbone covers technology and science for Fox News Digital. Tips or story leads: christopher.carbone@foxnews.com. Follow @christocarbone.

Liz Peek: Democrats should tread carefully — Americans may sour on investigations into Trump

“So Donald Trump’s private business, campaign, transition, inaugural committee and White House are all under criminal investigation. Very legal and very cool.”

That’s a tweet from one Mathew Miller, a “revolving door” former lobbyist for power company PG&E and legislative assistant for Dianne Feinstein, celebrating the exploding number of investigations into President Trump. He thinks it’s all “very cool.”

Do most Americans think that the endless spread of the Mueller investigation is cool? Or are they increasingly concerned that our Justice Department has become an engine of political retribution, guided by people with a left-wing bias and impervious to oversight by our elected officials?

One answer comes from a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, which reveals that for the first time ever, Americans have a higher negative than positive impression of Robert Mueller. Only 29 percent of the country, down from 33 percent in July, have a favorable impression of the Special Counsel while 33 percent have an unfavorable view of him. By contrast, 42 percent of the respondents to that poll approve of Trump.

Are Americans also thrilled that the incoming Congress appears more intent on bringing down a duly elected president than solving the concerns of the nation? The NPR poll shows “19% of Americans believe the top priority for the next Congress should be the economy and jobs, 17% say immigration, 16% say healthcare, and 10% say federal taxes and spending.” Nothing about impeaching the president.

Most Americans are too busy working and caring for their families to keep up with the day-to-day charges and counter-charges underlying the numerous Trump accusations. There are, of course those on the left like Mathew Miller, who hate Donald Trump, and who steep themselves in the ongoing saga as others might follow pro football.

But occasionally there are revelations about the probes that attract attention from a different group – Trump supporters who have largely tuned out, confident there was no collusion between Russia and the president’s campaign and optimistic the investigation will play out fairly.

Just recently, that expectation of fairness has been sorely tested. Kim Strassel has described in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed an aspect of the Mueller probe that reveals the political underbelly of this nearly two-year drama.  Thanks to Emmet Sullivan, the sentencing judge for General Michael Flynn, we now know how the FBI caught Trump’s former national security chief in a lie.

The Mueller investigation, increasingly tainted by such reports, will eventually end. But there are numerous other legal battles ahead.

Documents demanded by the judge show that Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe convinced the general to sit down casually to supposedly discuss other matters, encouraged him to not bring a lawyer, did not indicate he was under investigation, and did not reveal they had taped his earlier conversation with the Russian ambassador. One of the agents who interviewed Flynn was Peter Strzok, who famously sought an “insurance policy” in case Trump won the election and who has since been fired.

Disgraced former FBI head James Comey told MSNBC in an interview that he would never have “gotten away” with the set-up of Flynn in a more “organized” White House.

The revelations have caused a furor, with many repulsed by the duplicitous behavior of the FBI towards a highly decorated member of our military and outraged that the underhanded tactics succeeded in bringing down a member of the administration.

The anger elicited an unusual rebuttal, “Mueller Rejects Claim that Flynn Was Duped,” from the New York Times, which has largely ignored GOP concerns about FBI bias. It also generated a statement from the Special Counsel’s office, which has generally been as communicative as obsidian. The Times derides the “unfounded theory” that Flynn did not know he was being formally investigated. Mueller’s team denied engaging in what some have called entrapment, but the FBI agents both "had the impression at the time that Flynn was not lying or did not think he was lying."

Also recently, there has emerged evidence that someone in Mueller’s office wiped clean the phones used by notorious former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strozk, before their phones were handed over to the Office of the Inspector General for review. This seems another affront to those wanting to believe in the impartiality of our Justice Department.

The Mueller investigation, increasingly tainted by such reports, will eventually end. But there are numerous other legal battles ahead. President Trump may face charges that he violated campaign contribution laws (along with his “fixer” Michael Cohen) in paying off with his own money Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, an accusation that strikes many as weak. After all, President Obama settled charges of campaign violations in 2013 by paying one of the largest-ever fees to the FEC. No one considered the missteps an impeachable offense. Also, it is hard to prove that Trump did not make the payments to secure his own marriage, as opposed to influence voters.

Equally questionable is a new investigation by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office into the Trump inaugural committee. They want to see whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money to the inauguration in order to get access to the Trump White House or to influence the president on issues. Well, yes, that’s why people make political contributions; have these folks heard of the Clintons?

All Americans, regardless of their politics, should worry that the legal lightning storms over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are depressing the spirits so successfully revived by the Trump administration. Consumer sentiment soared after the 2016 election; though still elevated, it has ticked down in recent weeks as Trump’s legal battles have multiplied and as Democrats promise more of the same.

Mathew Miller may consider that a price worth paying to see President Trump hamstrung and humiliated. Most Americans, enjoying rising wages and strong job growth, will disagree; they will get to vent their displeasure in 2020. And they will, by reelecting Donald Trump.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. A former columnist for the Fiscal Times, she writes for The Hill and contributes frequently to Fox News, the New York Sun and other publications. For more visit LizPeek.com. Follow her on Twitter @LizPeek.

Defiant Comey lashes out at House GOP over ‘frustrating’ hearing

Former FBI director James Comey blasted House Republicans on Monday after exiting what he described as a “frustrating” closed-door hearing — his second Capitol Hill appearance this month where he was called to answer questions on the Russia and Hillary Clinton email probes.

“Someday, they'll have to explain to their grandchildren what they did today," a defiant Comey said of the Republicans on the two House committees that conducted the interview, accusing them of not defending the FBI from President Trump’s attacks.

Republicans, for their part, have accused Comey of not being forthcoming. He was called back to Capitol Hill after an appearance in early December in which he repeatedly claimed not to know or remember the answers to numerous questions. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told reporters he was not satisfied with Comey's answers on Monday, either.

Comey, though, cast the questioning from lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees as political and defended his own leadership, under which agents investigated Clinton and began probing relationships between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“We had to make very hard decisions in 2016,” Comey said. “I knew we were going to get hurt by it. The question was how do we reduce the damage.”

Asked by Fox News' Catherine Herridge if he bears any responsibility for the FBI's reputation taking a hit, he responded, "No."

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Comey called it “frustrating to be here.” He dismissed the questions from lawmakers, including over the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email investigation and the anti-Trump dossier authored by Chris Steele, as old news.

“The questions about Hillary Clinton and Steele dossier strike me as more of the same,” Comey said. “I didn’t learn anything new in there. Maybe they did.”

Lashing out at Republicans, Comey also called for them to stand up to the “fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets” and “stand up for the values of this country.”

Earlier, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters Republicans planned to focus their Comey questioning on a new FBI document that was released Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act and published by Politico.

He told reporters he wanted Comey to clarify when he first became aware of the involvement of the Democratic National Committee, law firm Perkins Coie and the opposition research group Fusion GPS in the production of the dossier.

“I want to give him a chance to clarify all that,” Meadows said.

That heavily redacted document details the information regarding the bureau’s Russia investigation that Comey, serving as FBI director at the time, briefed Trump about shortly after the Republican was elected president.

The document, once again, suggests the FBI was vague in the sourcing of the dossier’s origin as being funded by anti-Trump Democrats.

But Meadows also says he believes it could conflict with previous statements from Comey about what he knew of the dossier’s origins at the time.

“I can’t imagine how the director of the FBI did not know the connection between Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, and the DNC, as it related to the infamous dossier,” Meadows told reporters.

During an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier in April, Comey said he first learned about the existence of the dossier in the fall of 2016 but still didn’t “know…for a fact” that the DNC and Hilary Clinton campaign had funded the work. The dossier was funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign. The FBI document vaguely refers to it as being paid for by “private clients.”

“An FBI source … volunteered highly politically sensitive information … on Russian influence efforts aimed at the US presidential election,” the memo said.

Referring to Steele, who authored the dossier, the memo said, “The source is an executive of a private business intelligence firm and a former employee of a friendly intelligence service who has been compensated for previous reporting over the past three years." It also said, "The source collected this information on behalf of private clients and was not compensated for it by the FBI.”

Trump has railed against the FBI for relying in part on a dossier funded by Trump’s political opponents as it began investigating the relationships between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign.

Earlier this year, Comey said during his book tour that he didn’t tell the president about the origins of the dossier during the briefing, saying it “wasn’t necessary.”

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Comey returned for more Capitol Hill testimony after the prior Dec. 7 session left lame-duck Republican lawmakers fuming as Comey repeatedly said "I don't remember," "I don't know" and "I don't recall" when grilled about investigations Republicans believed were aimed at hurting Trump.

The questioning covered the FBI's probe of Clinton's email server and how a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election morphed into an all-encompassing probe of Trump's inner circle, including the obtaining of FISA warrants used to spy on American citizens.

A transcript of the marathon interview was released on Dec. 8, demonstrating the fired FBI boss' lack of responsiveness and the tension between him and GOP lawmakers.

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Comey also raised eyebrows when he told MSNBC a week ago that he broke protocol in order to send FBI agents to interview President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn in 2017. The new details about that fateful interview — which led to criminal charges against Flynn — are sure to come up in Monday's interview. The judge handling Flynn's guilty plea has raised new questions about how the affair was handled.

Asked to describe how two FBI agents ended up at the White House to interview Flynn in January 2017, Comey, speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace during a forum discussion last Sunday, said flatly: “I sent them.”

Comey went on to acknowledge the way the interview was set up – not through the White House counsel’s office, but arranged directly with Flynn – was not standard practice. He called it “something I probably wouldn't have done or maybe gotten away within a more … organized administration.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Caroline McKee and Greg Wilson contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Flynn responses in fateful White House interview documented in witness report released by Mueller

Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told FBI agents at the White House on January 24, 2017 "not really" when asked if he had sought to convince Russian ambassador not to escalate a brewing fight with the U.S. over sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, according to an explosive new FD-302 witness report released just hours before Flynn is set to be sentenced.

Flynn issued other apparently equivocal responses to FBI agents' questions, and at various points suggested that such conversations might have happened or that he could not recall them if they did, according to the 302.

The heavily redacted document contained few definitive statements from Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to making false statements about his contacts with Russia's ambassador, in connection with the White House meeting.

Flynn was not charged with wrongdoing as a result of the substance of his calls with the Russian ambassador — and a Washington Post article published one day before his White House interview with the agents, citing FBI sources, publicly revealed that the FBI had wiretapped Flynn's calls and cleared him of any criminal conduct.

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The 302 indicates that Flynn was apparently aware his communications had been monitored, and at several points he thanks the FBI agents for reminding him of some of his conversations with Russian officials.

Separately, a newly unsealed indictment Monday revealed that two Flynn associates had been charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey without properly registering under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), and Mueller has claimed Flynn also lied about his lobbying projects there. Flynn's guilty plea and cooperation with the Mueller probe helped him avoid similar FARA-related charges, legal analysts have said.

The newly released 302 was finalized on Feb. 15, 2017 after it was reviewed by top FBI brass, just two days following Flynn's resignation after he misled Vice President Pence about his communications with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The document stated that Flynn told agents "not really" and "I don't remember" when they asked if he had requested Kislyak and the Russians not engage in a "tit-for-tat" with the U.S. government over the Obama administration's sanctions in December 2016, or whether he had asked the Russians not to "escalate" the matter and to keep their response "reciprocal." (Trump, at the time, publicly said he wanted the U.S. to "move on" and not engage in a bitter dispute with Russia.)

Flynn — who sold his home in Virginia this year as his legal bills mounted – declared in his guilty plea nearly 11 months later that his comments on the issue were a knowing lie to the FBI agents.

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"It wasn't, 'Don't do anything,'" Flynn told the agents when they asked him if he had requested that the Russian ambassador not retaliate against the U.S., according to the 302. Flynn intimated that the U.S. government's harsh sanctions came as a "total surprise" to him, the document states.

Separately, agents asked Flynn whether Kislyak had promised that Russia would "modulate" its response to the sanctions, which were imposed by the Obama administration in its final days in power in response to Russian election meddling.

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"Flynn stated it was possible that he talked to Kislyak on the issue," the 302 stated, "but if he did, he did not remember doing so. Flynn stated he was attempting to start a good relationship with Kislyak moving forward."

The 302 continued: "Flynn remembered making four to five calls that day about this issue, but that the Dominican Republic [where he was vacationing] was a difficult place to make a call as he kept having connectivity issues. Flynn reflected and stated that he did not think he would have had a conversation with Kislyak about the matter, as he did not know the expulsions [of 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. as part of the Obama administration's sanctions] were coming."

An entire paragraph of the 302 concerning a "closed-door meeting" between Flynn and Kislyak after the presidential election was redacted.

Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, at right, meets with President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The May 10, 2017 meeting took place the same day Trump fired James Comey as FBI Director. Trump was widely criticized during the meeting for revealing information to the Russians about intelligence obtained from Israel about an ISIS terror plot involving laptop bombs. Although the president has the authority to disclose classified information, critics charged the move was reckless and endangered Israeli sources. (AP)

The document concluded by noting that "Flynn stated he did not have a long drawn out discussion with Kislyak where he would have asked him to 'don't do something.'"

Flynn, in fact, had asked Kislyak to "refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed on Russia that same day," according to prosecutors, who said Kislyak "had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request."

Flynn also denied to investigators that he had asked Russia to vote in any particular way at the United Nations, saying his only calls to countries were requests for information as to how they planned to vote. But prosecutors said that Flynn had sought to convince Russia to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. (The Obama administration abstained in that vote, which Republicans characterized as a betrayal of a close U.S. ally.)

EX-SENATE INTEL STAFFER PLEADS GUILTY TO LYING TO FBI — BUT DID HE LEAK FISA APPLICATION DAMAGING TO TRUMP?

Prosecutors addititonally charged that a "very senior member” of the Trump transition team directed Flynn to contact foreign governments including Russia over the U.N. vote. The Associated Press reported the “very senior” official was Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

During the interview at the White House, Flynn twice thanked agents for reminding him about his contacts with Kislyak concerning the U.N. — an apparent indication that he was well aware that the FBI, as The Post reported, had listened to his conversations. ("Yes, good reminder," he said at one point, according to the 302.)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed the witness report documenting FBI agents' fateful conversation with Flynn late Monday, shortly after U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan issued an order Monday requiring that prosecutors publicly turn over the document.

Giuliani: ‘Over my dead body’ will Trump meet with Mueller

A possible meeting between the president and special counsel appears to be off the table for the White House; John Roberts has the latest.

Sullivan had ordered the special counsel to turn over all government documents and “memoranda” related to the questioning of Flynn last week, after Flynn's attorneys, in a bombshell filing, claimed the FBI had discouraged him from bringing a lawyer to the White House interview and intentionally decided not to warn him of the consequences if he lied to agents.

Fired FBI Director James Comey admitted last week that the FBI's end-run around the White House Counsel — which the FBI usually involves in any of its interviews with senior White House officials — was not normal protocol, and that the FBI felt it could get "away with" the tactic in the early days of the Trump administration.

COMEY: WE GOT 'AWAY WITH' FLYNN INTERVIEW, BROKE PROTOCOL

Last Friday, Mueller met Sullivan’s deadline and provided some documents, some of which were heavily redacted. One memorandum produced by Mueller substantiated the claims by Flynn's lawyers that the FBI had cautioned Flynn against involving a lawyer in the interview because doing so would necessitate the Justice Department's involvement.

The memorandum, written by then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, also confirmed that agents did not want to affect their "rapport" with Flynn by suggesting he would be exposed to criminal liability if he lied.

"I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only," McCabe wrote. "I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House Counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [General Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants."

In this image made from a video taken on Dec. 10, 2015 and made available on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, US President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow.  (Ruptly via AP) (The Associated Press)

However, the special counsel did not publicly provide the January 302 witness report that FBI policy dictated should have been written immediately after the Flynn interview, leading to speculation as to whether one was drafted.

Sullivan's order on Monday stated that Mueller's team had made confidential arguments under seal as to redactions it would need to make to the 302. Sullivan ruled that the redactions were appropriate and that due to "strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial records," the 302 could be made public Monday.

STRZOK'S PHONE COMPLETELY WIPED AFTER HE WAS FIRED BY MUELLER FOR ANTI-TRUMP BIAS

The Flynn 302 released Monday further claimed Flynn was advised about the "nature of the interview" before it began.

However, the McCabe memorandum released Friday apparently showed that the FBI nudged Flynn not to have an attorney present during the questioning. And FBI agents deliberately did not instruct Flynn that any false statements he made could constitute a crime, and decided not to "confront" him directly about anything he said that contradicted their knowledge of his wiretapped communications with Kislyak.

One of the agents who conducted the Flynn interview, Peter Strzok, was fired from the Russia probe in late July 2017 over his apparent anti-Trump bias.

Comey: Stand up for the values of this country

Former FBI director James Comey speaks after second testimony on Capitol Hill.

Other portions of the document described apparently routine calls between Flynn and Kislyak about other matters.

On Sunday, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes told Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" it was likely Flynn pleaded guilty only because of overwhelming financial pressure and because "he was just out of money."

California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, for his part, told host Maria Bartiromo that he "would not be surprised a bit if the conviction of Flynn is overturned, because of the Justice Department and FBI's misconduct."

In June, Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C, charged that the FBI may have "edited and changed" key witness reports in the Hillary Clinton and Russia investigations. Meadows also raised the possibility that the FBI misled the Department of Justice watchdog in an attempt to hide the identities of FBI employees who were caught sending anti-Trump messages along with Strzok.

Speaking separately to "Fox News Sunday," Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani flatly charged that Flynn had been "railroaded" and "framed."

"What they did to General Flynn should result in discipline," Giuliani told host Chris Wallace. "They’re the ones who are violating the law.

Giuliani acknowledged that Flynn had misled Pence regarding his conversations with the then-Russian ambassador, but added, "that was a lie, but that’s not a crime."

Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Gregg Jarrett: James Comey may be the only one who believes the stories he’s selling

Only an audacious and arrogant man accuses others of lying when he is guilty of the same.

James Comey, the fired Director of the FBI, stood in front of the television cameras on Monday to accuse President Trump of “lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI, and attacking the rule of law in this country.”  This from the man who was fired for abusing his authority and usurping the power of the attorney general in the infamous Hillary Clinton email scandal.  As I wrote in my book, “The Russia Hoax,” “Comey’s lack of integrity and defiance of rules and principles of law were his downfall.  His unchecked ambition and desire to thrust himself into the public limelight only exacerbated his mistakes of judgment and deed.”

But don’t take my word for it.  Read the 500-page report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General who cited Comey for his bias, insubordination and unprofessionalism.  Or read the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) scathing critique of Comey that was endorsed by six former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from both political parties.  It is a damning indictment of how Comey committed multiple acts of misconduct and “refused to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

To this day, Comey refuses to accept responsibility for his misdeeds.  Instead, he shifts blame to others or attempts to cover it up.  When confronted with uncomfortable evidence he pretends, as he did more than 200 times in his December 7, 2018 congressional testimony, that “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”  His amnesia is, quite literally, unbelievable.

He can’t recall who drafted the document that launched the Trump-Russia investigation.  He claimed he never knew as FBI Director that Clinton, Fusion GPS, and the Democratic National Committee were all responsible for the anti-Trump “dossier.”  As for Bruce Ohr’s role at the Department of Justice in peddling the document, Comey replied, “I don’t know anything about that.”  Comey testified he hardly knew anything about the involvement of Christopher Steele, the former British spy who composed the phony “dossier.”  He said he didn’t know when the FBI fired Steele for lying. Right.

Nevertheless, Comey was all too willing to use the “dossier” as a pretext to spy on a Trump campaign associate, Carter Page. As FBI Director, he affixed his signature to the warrant application, even though he and bureau agents never verified the authenticity and veracity of that document.  In the process, Comey and others concealed vital evidence and deceived the FISA court.

Comey’s amnesia is either a clever feint or he is the most clueless and incompetent director in the history of the FBI.  I’m betting on the former.  Comey has become the master of deception and prevarication.  Who can forget his admission of lying while hawking his book on the television show, “The View.”   Comey said, “Good people lie.  I lay out, I think I’m a good person, where I have lied.”  In truth, his book only scratches the surface of the many lies, assuming you can wade through the self-adoration and inflated sense of rectitude.

Comey is not the heroic or noble figure that he imagines. 

As I’ve noted before, “Comey loves to sermonize about lies and lying people. This is perversely ironic coming from a man who, more than anyone else, is responsible for the most notorious hoax in modern American history.”  There was no credible evidence and, hence, no legal basis to justify the Trump-Russia investigation when Comey opened it in July of 2016.  According to those who attended a recent closed-door deposition of the FBI’s lead lawyer in the Russia case, Lisa Page admitted that the FBI had discovered no evidence of a crime which is a legal prerequisite for invoking the special counsel.

But that did not stop Comey from filching presidential memos, delivering them to a friend who then leaked them to the media for the sole purpose of triggering the appointment of a special counsel who just happened to be his long-time friend and ally, Robert Mueller.  In an interview on Fox News, Comey insisted it was “not a leak.”  Really?  Then what was it?

In the same interview, Comey insisted he never told Congress that the FBI agents who interviewed former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn determined he was not lying. Yet, documents show that Comey did tell lawmakers that agents concluded Flynn did not lie.

Congress has been investigating numerous statements made by Comey that are beyond credulity. Comey was asked, under oath, by the House Judiciary Committee if he decided to clear Clinton before or after she was interviewed by the FBI.  He testified “after.”  Yet documents uncovered by the Senate Judiciary Committee belie his testimony.  A full two months before the FBI ever interviewed Clinton, Comey began drafting the statement he used to exonerate her.

Comey also testified that he never authorized anyone at the FBI to leak information to the media. His top deputy, Andrew McCabe, is on record stating that Comey did, indeed, authorize such a leak and that the former director is not telling the truth.

Comey is not the heroic or noble figure that he imagines. He twisted the facts and contorted the law to clear Clinton. He launched an investigation of Trump without legally sufficient evidence. He deceived the FISA court by withholding evidence in order to wiretap a Trump campaign associate. He misappropriated government documents and leaked them to the media to precipitate an illegitimate special counsel investigation.  And he has repeatedly given false or misleading statements to both Congress and the media.

As FBI Director, Comey betrayed the public trust.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, until at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him.”

James Comey may be the only one who believes the stories he’s selling.

Gregg Jarrett joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2002 and is based in New York. He currently serves as legal analyst and offers commentary across both FNC and FOX Business Network (FBN).

Gregg Jarrett: Michael Flynn is innocent, wrongly prosecuted by Mueller to hurt Trump

If you want a textbook example of wrongful prosecution of a man who should never have been charged with a crime, just look at the case of retired Army Lt. Gen. and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

New documents released Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller make it clear that Flynn is a victim of an overzealous team of prosecutors absolutely desperate to show that President Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.

The new court filings provide yet more proof that Mueller will stop at almost nothing and run over anyone who gets in his way as he tries to build a case against the president after 19 months of his anti-Trump crusade.

Mueller doesn’t really care about Flynn. He wants to use Flynn to destroy Donald Trump.

Plain and simple, the information made public Friday shows that the FBI lied to Flynn to ensnare him in the crime of making a false statement, even though Flynn did not lie.

The new documents show without a doubt that Flynn never should have been prosecuted. They show that even the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn about his contacts with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak concluded Flynn was telling the truth. But Flynn’s statements about those contacts later became the basis of the charge against him of lying to the FBI.

Plain and simple, the information made public Friday shows that the FBI lied to Flynn to ensnare him in the crime of making a false statement, even though Flynn did not lie.

During the transition as President-elect Trump prepared to take office, Flynn was the designated national security adviser for the incoming president. As a legitimate part of his job, he had conversations with Ambassador Kislyak. These discussions were perfectly legal.

The Obama administration secretly recorded the phone calls, illegally unmasked Flynn’s name, and then illegally leaked the information to the media. This gave Director James Comey’s FBI a vacuous excuse to contact Flynn to set a trap.

Comey and his top deputy, Andrew McCabe, put the scheme in motion on January 24, 2017, just after Trump became president. Comey admitted in an interview this week that he violated FBI protocols by deliberately taking advantage of a presidential administration that was only four days old and not fully organized.

McCabe telephoned Flynn at the White House and lied to the Trump adviser, telling Flynn he wanted to talk about the “significant media coverage” of the leaked story.

McCabe pushed Flynn not to have a lawyer present and lulled Flynn into believing the meeting would be just an informal discussion of no legal consequence. McCabe and the agents agreed in advance not to tell Flynn the truth – that they had in their hands a transcript of the secretly recorded Kislyak conversation.

Flynn’s recollection of the conversation did not perfectly match the transcript. But that, by itself, is not enough under the law to charge someone with “knowingly and willfully” falsifying a material fact. Besides, the interviewing agents determined that Flynn was not being deceptive and did not lie. That should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t.

Although Acting Attorney General Sally Yates “was not happy” about Comey’s scheme, she didn’t stop it. Instead, she joined in and marched over to the White House and engineered the firing of Flynn as national security adviser.

The plain truth is that if Mueller had been forced to prove his case in court against Flynn on a charge of lying to FBI, Mueller would have lost.

The new court filings make clear that Mueller’s mission has gone from prosecution to persecution – and Flynn has become “collateral damage” in what amounts to an out-of-control effort to overturn the decision of the American people to elect Donald Trump as our president.

Why did Flynn plead guilty if he didn’t commit a crime?

As I wrote in my book, “The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump,” Flynn pleaded guilty not because he lied, but because Mueller crushed him financially and threatened to take legal action against the retired Army general's son. Flynn had to spend so much on defense attorneys that he was forced to sell his home, and Mueller’s prosecution made it impossible for Flynn to find employment.

Flynn has devoted his adult life to serving the United States, spending 33 years in the Army before taking the position of national security adviser for President Trump. He played a key role in developing our nation’s counterterrorism strategy and dismantling terrorist networks in Iraq and Afghanistan and rose to become director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Flynn’s reward for his decades of dedicated service? Being caught in the equivalent of a perjury trap set by the FBI, pressured to plead guilty to a felony charge of making false statements to the FBI when he was actually an innocent man, and now facing sentencing Tuesday. This is an enormous miscarriage of justice.

Even Mueller recognizes that Flynn does not deserve a long prison term. A sentencing memo Mueller filed in U.S. District Court in Washington earlier this month for Flynn recommends little or no prison time for the retired general.

And as I wrote in a column for Fox News published Dec. 5, the sentencing memo “isn’t a ‘smoking gun’ showing President Trump colluded with Russians to win the 2016 presidential election or did anything else illegal. In fact, the memo isn’t even a squirt gun. In terms of President Trump’s conduct, it amounts to nothing of any significance.”

The documents released Friday – some heavily redacted – were made public because U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered prosecutors to turn over the government's files dealing with the FBI’s questioning of Flynn that led to the charge against him of lying to the FBI.

The judge ordered the files to be submitted to his court after attorneys for Flynn said the FBI discouraged Flynn from bringing a lawyer to the interview and said the FBI failed to advise him that he could be charged with a crime for making false statements. Those claims by Flynn’s lawyers are true, the new documents show.

The new material included notes taken by then-FBI Deputy Director McCabe after talking with Flynn to arrange for Flynn to be interview by the FBI.

Now that he has the new information, will Judge Sullivan want to know why Mueller charged Flynn with lying if the only witnesses (the FBI agents) determined he was not?

The judge may also want to ask Flynn if he pleaded guilty to a crime he did not commit. Was he coerced? Did the feds threaten to prosecute his son? Were there financial reasons that caused him to plead?

In addition, Judge Sullivan could ask Mueller’s team if they gave Flynn’s lawyers what is known as “exculpatory” evidence showing that the FBI concluded Flynn was telling the truth. Under law, they are required to do so.

The bottom line is that the only wrongful or illegal conduct involving Michael Flynn was the conduct of the FBI and the anti-Trump zealots that make up Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors.

An innocent man and a patriot who spent his life defending our country has seen his reputation ruined, has been destroyed financially, and now faces sentencing for a crime he didn’t commit.

This is the kind of thing that happens in corrupt Third World dictatorships. It is not what should happen in the United States of America. Michael Flynn is the victim of a grave injustice and Robert Mueller, James Comey and everyone else involved in framing Flynn should be ashamed of themselves for their actions against him.

Gregg Jarrett joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2002 and is based in New York. He currently serves as legal analyst and offers commentary across both FNC and FOX Business Network (FBN).

Newt Gingrich: Mueller probe has gone from a witch hunt to an inquisition of Trump and allies

As the media clamor to cover each nugget of information that comes out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of so-called “collusion” between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, it’s becoming clearer just how brutal the Mueller team’s tactics are.

In many ways, the investigation has moved from being a Washington witch hunt vaguely concerning Russia to being a political inquisition of President Trump and his allies. All pretense of truth and justice has been dropped.

Consider what Mueller and his team have done to Paul Manafort, who briefly served as chairman of the Trump presidential campaign.

After an early morning FBI raid in July 2017 that left Manafort and his wife watching armed agents ransack their home as the couple were in their pajamas, the charges that were ultimately brought against Manafort in October last year had nothing to do with Russia or the 2016 election.

The charges all involved financial crimes related to Manafort’s own business endeavors. But that didn’t matter to Mueller – or the media. Mueller still interrogated Manafort more than a dozen times.

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Manafort eventually signed a plea deal with Mueller – after being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Now Mueller and his team are attempting to renege on Manafort’s plea agreement, saying Manafort didn’t fully cooperate in their so-called Russia investigation – although they won’t say how he was supposedly uncooperative.

Then, look at Mueller’s tactics against retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser.

After hours of interviews that apparently produced no smoking gun evidence that there was any collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, Mueller charged Flynn with making false statements during the interviews – and he threatened to go after Flynn’s son to elicit a plea agreement.

What parent wouldn’t accept a baloney plea deal to save his child from an unfettered, politically motivated federal investigation?

Now President Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, has been sentenced to three years in prison for supposed campaign finance violations related to payments he made to women who claimed to have had affairs with President Trump well before 2016. The president has denied their claims.

However, former Federal Election Commission member Hans von Spakovsky has pointed out in op-eds for Fox News and for The Daily Signal that legal precedent and statutory language indicate the transactions were not illegal under the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Moreover, Cohen was sentenced two months of his three-year prison term for misleading congressional committees about a one-time nascent Trump Organization business proposal that never got off the ground.

Cohen is now showing one of his many faces and is doing and saying whatever Mueller wants in the hopes he can reduce his prison sentence.

Again, after months of interrogations, raids, threats, and more than 30 people and three companies indicted, there’s no evidence of any collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia to win the election. Yet, as I wrote in my New York Times best-selling book “Understanding Trump and Trump’s America,” Mueller and his team are determined to get whoever they can for whatever they can.

And these examples are only part of a larger pattern carried out by the Department of Justice. Consider the case against Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian national. She is accused of conspiracy and breaking Section 951 – or “espionage-lite” – for attempting to build relationships with Republicans to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

Since being locked up in July, Butina has been kept mostly in solitary confinement and has not been given any clear explanation as to why. She broke this week and signed a plea agreement.

The charges against Butina carry an estimated sentence of up to six months in jail, as reported by The Daily Beast citing Butina’s plea agreement.

While Butina was not prosecuted by Mueller’s team, as a part of her agreement she’s pledged to assist law enforcement “in any and all to matters as to which the Government deems this cooperation relevant.” Butina has clearly been targeted in Mueller’s inquisition.

Mueller should be forced to release all 70 hours of his interviews with Cohen, so the American people can see how this inquisition is operating.

Americans should be able to know whether and how often Mueller and his team threatened or blackmailed Cohen. We should be able to know how many different versions of the story Cohen told them – and how Mueller determined which stories were more useful than others.

Members of the Mueller team simply interrogated and intimidated Cohen until he broke and said what they wanted him to say – and that happened to take upwards of 70 hours. Make no mistake, this is not an investigation. It’s an inquisition.

These types of tactics are exactly what former Justice Department attorney Sidney Powell wrote about in her best-selling book “Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.” Every American should read it to fully understand just how sick the system has become.

If we had any sense of equal justice, fired FBI Director James Comey, President Clinton and Hillary Clinton – and their efforts to influence the 2016 election – should be facing investigations of their own.

Mueller and his team feel empowered and emboldened to act on behalf of the establishment in Washington – and they are working to purge President Trump by any means necessary.

Newt Gingrich is a Fox News contributor. A Republican, he was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. Follow him on Twitter @NewtGingrich. His latest book is “Trump’s America: The Truth About Our Nation’s Great Comeback.”

Mueller releases Flynn files showing FBI doubts over ‘lying,’ tensions over interview

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team on Friday released key documents relating to the FBI’s questioning of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, confirming agents did not believe at the time Flynn intentionally lied to them — though he was later charged with making false statements in that interview.

The documents also reveal that the decision to interview Flynn in early 2017 about contacts with the Russian ambassador was controversial within the Justice Department. One FBI document said then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates “was not happy” when then-FBI Director James Comey informed her that the FBI planned to talk to Flynn. The report also said several unnamed people back at FBI headquarters “later argued about the FBI’s decision to interview Flynn.”

The documents – some of which are heavily redacted – were released in response to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordering prosecutors to hand over the government's files related to the FBI’s questioning of Flynn by Friday afternoon. The order came after Flynn's legal team said in a filing that the FBI discouraged Flynn from bringing a lawyer to the interview and agents never advised him false statements in that setting could constitute a crime. The newly released documents confirm those claims.

READ THE FLYNN DOCUMENTS

The documents include then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s notes after talking with Flynn to arrange his interview with the FBI. It also includes a so-called "302" report documenting what Flynn told anti-Trump agent Peter Strzok and one other agent during their conversation at the White House. That July 2017 report, though, specifically came from an interview with Strzok in which the Flynn encounter was discussed — and not the original Flynn interview. It was unclear why no "302" report from the interview itself was included.

The 302 report stated that Strzok and the other agent “both had the impression at the time that Flynn was not lying or did not think he was lying.”

Video

The report described Flynn as “unguarded,” saying he “clearly saw the FBI agents as allies.” It also stated Flynn discussed a number of “various subjects,” including things like hotels stayed in during the campaign, Trump’s “knack for interior design” and other issues unrelated to their inquiry.

“Flynn was so talkative, and had so much time for them, that Strzok wondered if the national security adviser did not have more important things to do than have a such a relaxed, non-pertinent discussion with them,” it said.

The document release comes days after Flynn’s legal team alleged that the FBI pushed him not to bring a lawyer to his fateful Jan. 24, 2017 interview with agents at the White House. McCabe's memo indicated he indeed discouraged Flynn from getting the White House counsel's office involved.

Recalling how the interview came about, McCabe wrote in his memo that he told Flynn by phone on Jan. 24, 2017 he had a “sensitive matter to discuss” with him, and that he and Comey wanted to send two agents over to go over his contacts with Russians, amid media reports on the subject.

“He agreed and offered to meet with the agents today….I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between him and the agents only,” McCabe wrote.

McCabe said he told Flynn that if he wanted to include lawyers from the White House counsel's office, McCabe would “need to involve the Department of Justice.”

McCabe wrote: “He stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

The January 2017 interview with the FBI was the basis of Flynn’s guilty plea to making false statements in a deal with Mueller's team.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about whether he had talked to former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016 on limiting the Russian government's response to former President Barack Obama's recently imposed sanctions for election meddling. Flynn was pushed out of the White House shortly after his interview for misleading Vice President Pence and other officials about those contacts.

Sullivan — who overturned the 2008 conviction of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens after government misconduct came to light — is weighing how to sentence Flynn. Sullivan also had ordered the Flynn team to turn over documents backing up its assertions.

COMEY ADMITS DECISION TO SEND FBI AGENTS TO INTERVIEW FLYNN WAS NOT STANDARD

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Flynn is set to be sentenced next Tuesday — it's unclear whether that date could be delayed in connection with the new filings. Sullivan technically has the authority to toss Flynn's guilty plea and the charge against him if he concludes that the FBI interfered with Flynn's constitutional right to counsel, although he has given no indications that he intends to do so.

According to both Flynn's legal team and the newly released documents, FBI agents in his case deliberately did not instruct Flynn that any false statements he made could constitute a crime, and decided not to "confront" him directly about anything he said that contradicted their knowledge of his wiretapped communications with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“Before the interview, McCabe, [redacted] and others decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport,” the 302 report said.

Over the weekend, Comey admitted that he personally made the decision to send a pair of agents to interview Flynn in 2017, and acknowledged the arrangement was not typical for dealing with a White House official.

Asked to describe how two FBI agents ended up at the White House to interview Flynn in January 2017, Comey, speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace during a forum discussion Sunday, said flatly: “I sent them.”

Comey went on to acknowledge the way the interview was set up – not through the White House counsel’s office, but arranged directly with Flynn – was not standard practice. He called it “something I probably wouldn't have done or maybe gotten away with in a more … organized administration.”

President Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tweeted Friday that the documents are proof the FBI set a “perjury trap” for Flynn.

”It included misleading him about getting a lawyer, not refreshing his recollection and filing a false statement charge when FBI thought it wasn’t,” Giuliani tweeted.

In the court filing, Mueller’s team called the interview “voluntary and cordial” and said nothing about the way it was arranged or conducted “caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI on January 24.”

“A sitting national security adviser, 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,” the filing stated. “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 prosecutors also argued that even though the interviewing agents did not believe at the time he was lying, 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.”

Still, the prosecutors said in the filing they are seeking a lenient sentence for Flynn, citing “his cooperation and military service” and “assuming the defendant continues to accept responsibility for his actions.”

Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.