Posted by Curt on 25 September, 2020 at 4:46 pm. 3 comments already!


by Mark Wauck

I’ll do this in a sort of impressionistic way–concentrating on overall impressions taken from the FD-302 of FBI Agent William Barnett. That “302” memorializes the interview of Barnett that was conducted by FBI agents and prosecutors investigating the handling of the Michael Flynn case.

First of all, imagine how Barnett felt going into this interview, and what the circumstances of the interview tell us.

Barnett, a law enforcement official of the federal government, had hired an attorney to be present with him at the interview–even though he was just a witness. He may have been just a witness, but he knew this was a high stakes interview and he couldn’t simply trust to his own integrity.

He was interviewed by two FBI agents and two federal prosecutors–one of them Jeffrey Jensen, a USA who had also been an FBI agent. Barnett knew there’d be no BS-ing his way through this interview, and that this interview was supremely important from the government’s standpoint.

Right at the start we learn something very important. Barnett had worked on both the Flynn and Manafort investigations. In fact, he was the case agent for both investigations at the FBI’s Washington Field Office (WFO), having been specifically recruited to join the Crossfire Hurricane (CH) team by SSA Joe Pientka. He continued working those cases once Team Mueller was set up. That means that he would have interacted regularly with the prosecutors who led those investigations for Team Mueller. We learn later that Barnett is able to recall the attitudes and words of Jeannie Rhee and Andrew Weissmann, so it’s a good guess that Durham/Jensen are very much interested in those two Team Mueller alumni.

As Barnett explained himself to USA Jensen, four years after the fact, his overall attitude toward the entire Russia Hoax/CH investigation was that it was “supposition on supposition” with little evidence of any criminal activity. Later Barnett draws a distinction between the Flynn and Manafort investigations. He believed that there was substance to the Manafort investigation but claims to have always doubted that there really was any logical predication for investigating Flynn. In that regard he mentions his doubts regarding two specific incidents that were cited as supporting predication to open a Full Investigation on Flynn: Flynn’s speech in Moscow, and what we now know was the hoax regarding the supposed relationship between Flynn and Svetlana Lokhova. As it is, the interview appears to have focused largely on the Flynn (“RAZOR”) case.

A major focus of the interview, unsurprisingly, was: just who was in charge? Who directed the investigation of Flynn (Manafort takes a back seat in this interview)? The answer, from Barnett’s perspective, was that in the first stage of the investigation, from startup up to the decision to keep the Flynn case open was made on January 4, 2017, the person who ran the investigation was Peter Strzok. In other words, the Flynn case and CH generally, was operated mostly by a small cadre of FBIHQ managers. Not only did Strzok decide on the opening and closing of the Flynn case, but even routine investigative decisions such as whether to seek National Security Letters (NSL) were made by Strzok–without any explanation being offered to the case agent, Barnett. As Barnett puts it later in the interview, the Flynn case was run “top down.”

The result was that very little real investigation of Flynn ever took place. Instead, the open case appeared to Barnett to be a sort of placeholder–a case without real predication that was being kept open “just in case”. Just in case Flynn became a target of opportunity (as in fact happened) and the FBI could then say, Oh yeah, we’ve been investigating him as a foreign agent all along–to provide added credibility to the setup interview of Flynn.

That, of course, is not how investigations are supposed to be managed. In this regard, there are signs in the 302 that this write-up may be only one of several. For example, regarding the lack of predication and the lack of actual investigative activity, the 302 briefly notes that Barnett mentions a “very frank discussion” on that score with “Analyst 1.” But no details. I suspect a more detailed account of that aspect exists.

This perspective on how the Flynn investigation was managed is important, because it narrows down USA Jensen’s focus on the Flynn case. Presumably, Barnett’s account will also be supported by or will confirm what Joe Pientka has already told investigators regarding who directed it all. This in turn will help Jensen to pin the decision on opening a basically unpredicated Full Investigation of Flynn on Strzok–and possibly others above Strzok.

Pientka’s role in all this is interesting. That role is touched on twice. We’ve already pointed out that it was Pientka who recruited Barnett for the CH Team. It appears that Pientka was trusted by Strzok and worked closely with Strzok–for example, handing Ohr off to Pientka indicates a high degree of trust and confidence. So my guess is that Strzok instructed Pientka to recruit agents for the CH Team who could be relied upon to go along with the plan. From Barnett’s account, it doesn’t appear that great initiative was a requirement, since he emphasizes that his role–unlike what would usually be expected of a case agent–was basically to follow instructions and not ask questions.

I would anticipate that Pientka has been debriefed on his relationship with Strzok. Pientka, on the other hand, appears not to have been totally candid with Barnett. Barnett mentions that Pientka apologized for interviewing Flynn without informing Barnett, the case agent–offering a somewhat lame excuse to Barnett. In fact, we know that Pientka had probably been preparing for such an interview for months, since he was selected to give the National Security briefing to Trump and Flynn for that specific purpose–to assess Flynn for possible interview purposes. Barnett surmised in hindsight that he had been “cut out” of the interview, a fact that would be probative of a theory of prosecution that the Russia Hoax/CH investigation was in fact a closely guarded conspiracy, entry to the inner counsels of which was carefully restricted.

It was only after the Flynn interview that Pientka seems to have had serious doubts about what was going on, having realized that Flynn was an innocent man being targeted by Strzok and a small group at FBIHQ. It was at that point that Pientka tried to distance himself from the Russia Hoax, and that Strzok tried to insulate Pientka from further involvement. From that point of view, Barnett’s corroboration of Pientka could be very useful at trial, and if Pientka can confirm that Barnett’s surmise of being “cut out” of the interview is correct, that too would be very useful.

This, I believe, is the major takeaway from Barnett’s account of the Flynn case up to the interview of Flynn. It appears that Jensen’s focus for that period is twofold:

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