Let’s Get Rid of Perjury Traps Altogether

Mike Flynn in happier days.Aude Guerrucci/CNP/ZUMA

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Are you wondering why I haven’t said anything yet about the Mike Flynn affair? It’s simple: I don’t care. Flynn is a minor player in a minor tiff that happened three years ago. It barely even matters who’s “right.” Here’s all you really need to know:

  • When the FBI asked Flynn about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Flynn lied about them. That’s a felony.
  • Now the Department of Justice says the FBI was out of line even asking about this. It was just a setup. Therefore the charges should be dropped.

Fine. Like I said, I don’t really care if Mike Flynn goes to jail. Still, I have a question. The Justice Department is basically claiming that the FBI engaged in the equivalent of a perjury trap. That is, they surprised Flynn with questions he wasn’t expecting in hopes of getting him to lie. Then they’ve got him on charges of lying to a federal agent.

So here’s my question: the FBI does this all the time. It’s loathsome stuff, and I would be delighted if the Flynn case led to a wholesale reckoning with this behavior. But I don’t think that’s in the cards. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the Justice Department has never in its history voluntarily pulled back from a charge of lying to federal agents and announced that they’re really sorry it happened. Have they?

UPDATE: I’ve replaced “perjury trap” in most instances with “lying to a federal agent.”

UPDATE 2: Just to be clear, I’m not taking a stand one way or the other about whether the Flynn interview was entrapment of some kind. I’m only saying that this is what the Justice Department claimed (i.e., that the questions were “immaterial”) when they dropped their prosecution of Flynn.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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