FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has ordered an internal probe into the bureau’s handling of the case against Michael Flynn, who briefly served as President Trump’s first national security adviser before becoming the first casualty of the Russia probe.
The review will look into whether any current FBI employees engaged in misconduct and if any policies or procedures were violated, the bureau said in a statement.
The FBI’s Inspection Division will handle the review.
However, the division’s authority to discipline is limited to current employees. Many of the key players in the case, including former FBI Director James B. Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Agent Peter Strzok, have long since left the bureau.
“As for former employees, the FBI does not have the ability to take any disciplinary action,” the statement said.
The Inspection Division operates similarly to a police department’s internal affairs unit and can recommend discipline for current employees, but has no power to prosecute.
The FBI also revealed that two agents outside the Washington area had been provided to U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen, who was tapped by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the Flynn case.
Mr. Wray said the Inspection Division will coordinate its review with Mr. Jensen’s efforts and the two probes will “complement” each other.
The review comes as the president’s Republican allies have demanded Mr. Wray take stronger actions to clean up the FBI.
Some of the harshest attacks have come from lawmakers close to the president who demanded to know why the FBI kept secret the evidence that would have exonerated Flynn.
“I think the FBI needs to show more energy in terms of solving some of these internal problems, and I don’t know why it took so long to get the information out about the Flynn case,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said this month.
Mr. Trump also has questioned his FBI director, telling Fox News “the jury is out” on Mr. Wray.
Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the then-Russian ambassador. He later proclaimed his innocence and sought to withdraw his guilty plea.
Mr. Barr this month asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges against Flynn after internal FBI documents surfaced raising doubts about the case.
One of those documents was a handwritten note that Flynn’s legal team suggested was evidence that the FBI tried to trick him into lying so he could be fired or prosecuted.
Another showed that the FBI initially intended to drop the investigation because agents failed to uncover wrongdoing, but Mr. Strzok pushed to keep it open after meeting with top bureau officials.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee this month sent a letter to Mr. Wray demanding an investigation. The letter at times was as much a rebuke of the FBI director as it was a call for an investigation.
“It is well past time you show the leadership necessary to bring the FBI past the abuses of the Obama-Biden era,” Republicans wrote in the letter.
The lawmakers demanded Mr. Wray turn over a slew of information and make several FBI officials involved in the Flynn case available for interviews.
The Republicans said they want to hear from former FBI head of counterintelligence Bill Priestap and agent Joe Pientka, who is believed to have participated in the January 2017 White House interview that led to Flynn’s prosecution.
Flynn’s case this week moved to a federal court of appeals as his legal team has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to dismiss his case.
Meanwhile, the federal judge overseeing the case hired an attorney to represent him as an appeals court reviews his decision not to immediately grant the Justice Department’s dismissal request.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan hired well-known trial attorney Beth Wilkinson to help draft a response to appeals courts’ demand that he address accusations of partisanship lodged by Flynn’s legal team.
Ms. Wilkinson is a heavy-hitter in Washington and boasts a roster of high-profile clients. She represented then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh when he battled sexual misconduct claims in 2018. Ms. Wilkinson is also a former prosecutor, who rose to prominence pursuing the death penalty for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
It is an unusual move for a judge to lawyer up.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department requested Judge Sullivan drop the prosecution of Flynn for lying to FBI officials about his 2016 phone call with the then-Russian ambassador. But Judge Sullivan has rebuffed that request.
Instead, he appointed a former New York federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s push for dismissal. The former judge, John Gleeson, will also review whether Flynn should be held in contempt for recanting his guilty plea.
Flynn last week went directly to the appellate court asking them to dismiss the case and remove Sullivan from any further proceedings if there are any.
In response, the appellate court issued a stunning order demanding Judge Sullivan explain himself by June 1.