Political commentators have been at a loss to explain why former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who surely knew that he might have been under surveillance, would have lied to the FBI about the contents of his conversations with the Russian ambassador last December.
Left-wing pundits have presumed that Flynn must have lied to the FBI because he wanted to cover up the “Russian collusion,” for which no evidence has yet been found.
But it is possible Flynn did not actually lie.
In fact, we know — as the Wall Street Journal noted on Saturday — that former FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 2 that Flynn had not lied to the FBI, but had merely forgotten what had been said in his conversations. It is not hard to imagine that might have happened; he was on vacation in the Dominican Republic when one of the conversations allegedly took place.
When he resigned on February 14, after being accused of lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the contents of the conversations, Flynn said that he “inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information.” The FBI seemed to have believed him, at the time. It is possible that new evidence emerged to suggest that Flynn had deliberately and knowingly lied. But it is also possible Flynn made a good faith mistake.
If so, why plead guilty to lying? Defendants often accept plea bargains in which they admit to doing something they did not actually do, in order to avoid prosecution for something much worse that they may have done or which will be much more difficult to disprove.
Flynn may have been in trouble for a variety of things, including his possible role in an alleged plot to kidnap Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The truth may only become clear over time — if ever.