The judge overseeing the criminal case against Michael Flynn, who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser, scolded the Justice Department on Friday for turning over altered documents.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the government until Monday to verify that every piece of evidence the Justice Department has relied on is “true and correct” or face a penalty of perjury.
He also ordered the Justice Department to identify each document by name, date and author, along with transcriptions of all handwritten notes.
“The government did not address the Court’s authentication request despite the government’s acknowledgment that altered FBI records have been produced to Mr. Flynn and filed on the record in this case,” Judge Sullivan wrote.
The Justice Department earlier this month “inadvertently” altered court documents as part of its ongoing effort to dismiss the charges against Flynn. Although Flynn has pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador in 2016, he has since recanted and is seeking exoneration.
Department lawyers said earlier this month that a wayward sticky note scanned onto a set of undated notes from former FBI agent Peter Strozk covered up the date of a key meeting in the case.
An Oval Office meeting in which then-President Barack Obama, FBI Director James Comey, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and others discussed Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador took place on January 5, 2017. But the sticky note added by FBI agents instead made it look as if there was an estimated date range of January 4-5, 2017.
A similar error was made on a document written by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the Justice Department said in a court filing.
“Those two sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters before they were forwarded to our office for production,” department lawyers said in a court filing.
The government has insisted the documents were not altered in any other way and the unaltered copies had not been turned over to the court.
However, it marked the third time in the past several months the Justice Department provided the wrong date for the meeting. A June 24 court filing also included an inaccurate date for the White House meeting.
The documents have been cited by Mr. Trump and his allies as evidence of a left-wing cabal inside the White House determined to charge Flynn with a crime and undermine the incoming Trump administration.
Mr. Strozk’s notes indicate that Mr. Biden mentioned the Logan Act, a little-used 18th Century law that outlaws unauthorized Americans from negotiating with foreign governments, but provides no context about why the vice president raised the obscure statute.
Mr. Biden had acknowledged being at the meeting but claimed he was only broadly aware of the Flynn investigation. Still, Mr. Trump has tried to weaponize the notes against his 2020 campaign rival painting him as part of “the deep state” out to get members of his administration.
But the sticky note error seems to undermine Mr. Trump’s claims because text messages sent January 4, 2017, between Mr. Strzok and his paramour, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, revealed they were discussing the Logan Act. That would be at least one day before Mr. Biden mentioned it in the meeting.
According to the texts, Mr. Strzok provided Ms. Page the full statute and analysis by the Congressional Research Service that the Logan Act could be unconstitutional.