The Justice Department wishes us to believe that it “inadvertently” and innocently screwed up by altering documents and then including them in a court filing as part of its efforts to dismiss charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The version of a document filed by the Justice Department included a sticky note that had been added to the original and then scanned for filing so that it looked like the added note was part of the original.
The note in question gave a range of January 4 to January 5, 2017 as possible dates for a White House meeting about Flynn’s contact with Russian officials. Except that the meeting was held on January 5, which is not in question. The misdating allowed Flynn’s defense to claim that then-Vice President Joe Biden originated the idea of prosecuting Flynn under the Logan Act, a claim repeated in last week’s debate by Donald Trump. Except, it cannot be stressed enough, the possible January 4 date was a “mistake” by the Justice Department under the ultimate Trump loyalist, Attorney General William Barr.
The document—notes on that Oval Office meeting taken by former FBI agent Peter Strzok—mentions Biden alluding to the Logan Act. It would be serious news if Biden had personally recommended an obscure law to use in prosecuting Flynn. As former FBI Director James Comey testified last month, “I would remember it because it would be highly inappropriate if a president or vice president suggested prosecution or investigation of anyone. And it did not happen.”
In fact, the FBI started discussing the Logan Act on January 4, the day before the correct January 5 date of the White House meeting. And that is how the Justice Department’s “mistake” completely changed the tenor of the effort to dismiss the charges against Flynn. “You gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn,” Trump charged at the September 29 debate.
This would be monumental incompetence on the part of the seasoned prosecutors at the United States Department of Justice. It is, unfortunately, as easy to believe that it was done with malign intent as that such a serious and basic screw-up was done innocently.