Newly released documents show that the FBI used standard FBI tactics on Michael Flynn

MAGA world is very up-in-arms about some newly unsealed court documents involving the case of Michael Flynn, the US Army Lieutenant General and former Trump national security advisor who pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian government and also worked as a secret lobbyist for the Turkish government while he was in the White House.

The documents at the center of this flurry involve handwritten notes from an FBI agent about the handling of the case. "What's our goal?" the agent scrawled on one document. "Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?" Another document shows the same agent expressing concern about the need to "Protect our institution by not playing games," noting that "If we're seen playing games, WH will be furious."

Flynn's lawyers are trying to use this revelation to reverse his guilty plea and get the case thrown out, citing it as proof of a Deep State FBI something something. "Since August 2016 at the latest, partisan F.B.I. and D.O.J. leaders conspired to destroy Mr. Flynn," they wrote to the judge, "These documents show in their own handwriting and emails that they intended either to create an offense they could prosecute or at least get him fired."

President Trump has long defended Flynn's innocence, so it's no surprise that his lawyers would try to take advantage of this opportunity. But nor should it be surprising that the FBI was trying to make deliberate and strategic bureaucratic decisions. This has been the FBI's modus operandi since its founding in 1908. They've always relied on tactical, legalese approaches to law enforcement in order to defend the centrist equilibrium of the nation — for better, or for worse. It's how they infamously nailed Al Capone on tax evasion; it's also how they fucked with Black Panthers in order to crush their dissent regardless of the fact that they hadn't actually done anything dangerous or immoral. Michael Flynn has one of the first dominoes that went down in the massively wide-reaching Russia investigation; of course the FBI was trying to take a calculated approach to how to handle him.

The FBI frequently insists that it is apolitical, but a large part of that is actually its shrewd and cunning navigation of nonpartisanship — again, a tactic designed to uphold and defend the status quo of The American Institution. In that context, it makes sense that they wouldn't want to piss off the White House, particularly when the president himself was (to their knowledge at the time) possibly embroiled in the very same Russian-related scandal. It similarly makes sense that they would have to make conscious considerations about how to get Flynn to cooperate with them. Do they try to get him to flip and provide them with information? Do they assume he won't cooperate, so they just punish him, and hope it sends a message to the right people? And so on.

When it comes to white collar crime, PR and psychological manipulation are a part of the FBI's game. It has been this way for 112 years. They've certainly used these adroit entrapment methods to take down some bad people; they've also used it to terrible ends, screwing with innocent people and sometimes causing more dangerous through their reckless arrogance in knowing that they're so rarely held accountable for their own actions.

It's the same thing that happened with Carter Page — yes, FISA surveillance is largely terrible, but most of the FBI's behavior still fell within the established rules of that terrible system. While I would gladly see the end of such tactics, I also recognize that they're fairly in-line with more than a century of precedent now, and MAGA world is only mad now because it's being used against them, instead of against blacks and queers and Muslims and labor organizers.

Flynn Lawyers Seize on Newly Released F.B.I. Documents [Adam Goldman and Katie Benner / The New York Times]

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