By Brian Cates
When two FBI agents arrived at the White House on the morning of January 24, 2017 to interview Lt. General Michael Flynn, none of the three men involved could’ve foreseen the different fates that awaited them.
One of the men would be forced to very publicly resign from an important job in the newly-installed Trump administration.
One would be very publicly fired from the FBI after a contentious Congressional hearing before the entire country.
And one of these men would simply…disappear.
Before discussing the various fates of the people involved in that now infamous meeting, let’s discuss what FBI 302 forms are and why they are suddenly in the news.
Why The FBI Doesn’t Record Interviews
The FBI does not make video or audio recordings of it’s interviews with the people it investigates. Agents are actually forbidden from doing that. Instead, the agents will take handwritten notes during the interview they will then later enter onto an official interview form, called the FD-302. This of course makes the FBI’s 302 form the only official record of what was or was not said.
If you are paying attention, you will immediately see that this makes the agent’s version of how the interview went the only official record. And the only official record of what was said is going to matter a whole lot if the person being interviewed ends up getting charged with a crime and has to go to court to try to prove their innocence.
As many have noted, things are deliberately set up this way with written notes and typed out forms – even in our digital age – to make it incredibly easy to catch people in perjury traps. What the person being interviewed actually said becomes irrelevant; all that matters is what the agent conducting the interview wrote down in the one single official record.
And if it turns out someone went back after the fact and altered an official 302 record to create a case to prosecute someone for perjury, that would be a huge scandal.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is what happened in the General Flynn case.
Evidence Emerges of Altered 302 Forms
Thanks to an explosive filing by Flynn’s defense attorney Sidney Powell, we now know that former FBI counsel Lisa Page was involved in editing Peter Strzok’s 302 form. This fact – revealed by several text messages, raises a whole host of alarming issues.
Page at first claimed she didn’t have any involvement in editing Strzok’s 302 form. Only when the IG investigators confronted her with her own text message exchanges with Strzok did she change her story.
Page was not present for the interview with Flynn at the White House, and so there’s simply no legitimate reason for her to be editing these official records.
In a column that appeared in the Washington Examiner on Tuesday November 5th, retired top FBI official with thirty years experience in the bureau didn’t mince any words after he read Powell’s motion:
One of the most damning charges contained within Powell’s 37-page court brief is that Page, the DOJ lawyer assigned to the office of then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, may have materially altered Flynn’s interview FD-302, which was drafted by Strzok. FBI agents transfer handwritten interview notes onto a formal testimonial document, FD-302, within five days of conducting an interview, while recollections are still fresh.
It is unheard of for someone not actually on the interview itself to materially alter an FD-302. As an FBI agent, no one in my chain of command ever directed me to alter consequential wording. And as a longtime FBI supervisor, I never ever directed an agent to recollect something different from what they discerned during an interview.
Powell charges that Page directed Strzok to alter his Flynn interview 302. As in most instances in life, words matter. The change in wording was instrumental in moving Flynn from a target to a subject.
James Gagliano goes on to relate how Comey openly bragged about helping to engineer this ambush interview of Flynn that resulted in what now increasingly appears to be a bogus perjury charge based on altered official documents:
Recall also how Comey famously told NBC’s Nicolle Wallace, in front of an audience, that Flynn was visited by FBI agents at the White House in chaotic early days of Trump transition because, in Comey’s words, “I sent them.”
“Something we’ve — I probably wouldn’t have done or maybe gotten away with in a more organized investigation — a more organized administration. In the George W. Bush administration, for example, or the Obama administration. The protocol, two men that all of us perhaps have increased appreciation for over the last two years. And in both those administrations there was process. And so, if the FBI wanted to send agents into the White House itself to interview a senior official, you would work through the White House Counsel and there would be discussions and approvals and it would be there. And I thought, it’s early enough, let’s just send a couple of guys over. And so, we placed a call to Flynn, said, hey, we’re sending a couple of guys over. Hope you’ll talk to them. He said, sure. Nobody else was there. They interviewed him in a conference room in the Situation Room, and he lied to them. And that’s what he’s now pled guilty to.”
Comey making that admission before a live TV audience got him applause and acclaim at the time. Now that the story of what really happened in emerging, it remains to be seen how much bragging Comey will be doing – on TV or anywhere else.
Two FBI Agents Treated Very Differently
The contrast between the divergent fates of Strzok & Pientka since that January 2017 White House interview of General Flynn is surprisingly stark.
While Strzok became a very public figure in December of 2017 when Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released the first batch of his text messages with Lisa Page, Pientka has been very carefully and deliberately kept out of sight and out of mind.
Despite Congressional committees writing letters to the Department of Justice asking that Pienkta be produced to answer questions, there has been no response.
In fact, Pientka has been kept to such a low profile that I humorously dubbed him “The DOJ’s Invisible Man” in a column for The Epoch Times back in January.
Strzok was very publicly fired from the agency after his very public grilling before the Congressional committees on national television.
As of yet, there’s been no official word of what happened to FBI Special Agent Joseph Pientka. Where he is and what he is doing these days remains a mystery and the DOJ has been unwilling to answer any questions about him.
My feeling right now is that this won’t be the case much longer, with Sidney Powell on his trail.
Lead counsel Brandon Van Grack told Judge Sullivan that from the very beginning the Mueller Special Counsel’s office in building this perjury case against General Flynn had **misidentified** the authorship of two sets of notes from the January 24 2017 interview.
That is, the notes the Special Counsel had claimed were written by Peter Strzok had been authored by the other agent, Joseph Pientka. Likewise, the set of notes identified as having been written by Pientka were in reality Strzok’s notes.
As I explained above, the entire perjury case against Flynn rests on the one official record that exists of the interview: the FD-302 form. And now we know that not only was that form edited by someone who wasn’t even there in the White House when the interview occurred, we know that what the prosecutors were proffering as Strzok’s notes weren’t really his.
The citizen research/investigator who goes by the handle @JohnWHuber on Twitter did a fantastic thread about why it matters that the government prosecutors switched the authorship of the two sets of notes from the Flynn interview.
From the earliest stages was the Mueller Special Counsel aware of serious issues with the Flynn 302 and were they trying to hide these issues from the Court & from the Flynn defense team?
You can bet Judge Sullivan is going to want to get to the bottom of this.
Brian Cates entered the political arena in March 2012, following the death of Andrew Breitbart. He is currently a political columnist for The Epoch Times and UncoverDC. Brian is based in South Texas and is the author of: “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” You can follow Brian on Twitter @DrawAndStrike