Adam Goldman of NYT Writes Inane Article on Gen. Flynn Case -- 3rd Pulitzer a Given

FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2017 file photo, former national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves federal court in Washington. Flynn has been campaigning to support Republican candidates, as he awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI. In May 2018, Flynn endorsed Montana Republican Senate candidate Troy Downing in a video message, then followed up with a radio interview. In March, he made a personal appearance in California with Republican Omar Navarro in his primary bid for the chance to run against 14-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

 

Taking advantage of his perch atop the NYT, Adam Goldman has offered up a piece of stunningly horrendous “reporting” that can’t even hide its flaws — because Goldman doesn’t seem to see them.

Just to preview what is to come, let me highlight the most shocking example by juxtaposing two small snippets he pounded out on the keyboard of his computer — apparently oblivious to the smoking crater it leaves in his story:

“A key former F.B.I. official cast doubt on the Justice Department’s case for dropping a criminal charge against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during an interview with investigators last week… according to people familiar with the investigation.”

Mr. Priestap told investigators that he did not remember the circumstances surrounding the notes that he took, and that he was giving them his interpretation of the notes as he read them now….”

So, according to Goldman’s sources, Priestap “cast doubt” on the DOJ’s motion by explaining notes that he doesn’t remember making.

Oh Lord — why couldn’t I have had more opportunities to cross-examine witnesses who professed to such a circumstance as a basis for their testimony???

“They did not tell Judge Sullivan about Mr. Priestap’s interview.”

Maybe that was because Priestap said, “I don’t remember writing those notes, but here’s my best guess about what I might have meant.”

Goldman writes that the interpretation that has given to Priestap’s written notes is wrong.  Among the things Priestap wrote was, “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” But Goldman says:

Mr. Priestap told the prosecutors … that F.B.I. officials were trying to do the right thing in questioning Mr. Flynn and that he knew of no effort to set him up. Media reports about his notes misconstrued them, he said, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

Are we still talking about the same guy who said he couldn’t remember making the notes?

Again Goldman can’t do any better than rely on “people familiar with the investigation.”  How big a universe of people might that phrase encompass?

I can’t do it here, but I’m confident the list of inaccurate reporting done by Adam Goldman when he was relaying things told to him by “people familiar with the ……..” — you fill in the blank — goes well into triple digits.  But hey, when they give you a Pulitzer Prize in “News Reporting” for pieces of fiction you write based on what you were told by “people familiar with ….”, I guess you just keep going with it.

But who might that be in this class of suspects?

Maybe someone like Brandan Van Grack, the prosecutor on the case who disagreed with the motion.

If you go down a bit farther in the story, you see than one of the DOJ officials who interviewed Priestap was Jocelyn Ballantine, co-counsel with Van Grack on the Flynn case.  She would be “familiar with the investigation”  — or maybe she just relayed to Van Grack what Priestap said, and Van Grack hit Goldman’s name at the top of his “Favorites” list on his phone contacts.

But, according to Goldman, Ballentine is also someone who “vociferously disagreed” with the decision to produce Priestap’s notes to defense counsel for Gen. Flynn, Sidney Powell, and she “vociferously disagreed with Mr. Jensen’s legal argument that Mr. Flynn’s lies were immaterial…”  Goldman has a favorite word — who can guess what it is?

Mr. Priestap declined to comment.

Apparently Goldman didn’t need him to say “I don’t remember making the notes” or “The notes call into doubt” the DOJ motion.  He was fine going with “people familiar with the investigation.”  “NYT Goldman Standard” I guess we could call it.

Both Mr. Van Grack and Jocelyn Ballantine, another prosecutor on the case, were upset with Mr. Barr’s decision to drop the charge …. according to people familiar with their thinking.

SHOCKING!! Prosecutors who had pursued the case against a retired 3 Star General for more than 2 years object and are upset about the decision to dismiss their case upon a conclusion that their case was unjustified and unwarranted!!

I would be more troubled if they agreed.  Think about what that would say about them.

The prosecutors already on the case, Mr. Jensen’s team and the F.B.I. disagreed about whether [the notes] were exculpatory and should be given to Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell.

AGAIN – what would you think about the ethics of Van Grack and Ballentine if they agreed the notes were Brady material, and sat in the case file for more than 3 years without ever being produced by them?

Mr. Jensen and officials in Mr. Shea’s office pushed to give Mr. Flynn’s lawyers copies of the notes and other documents they had recently found. Mr. Van Grack and Dana Boente, the F.B.I. general counsel, argued against disclosing them.

Let me give Mr. Goldman a brief lesson on the what the Supreme Court has said about producing “questionable” Brady material:

We are not considering the scope of discovery authorized by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure…. We are dealing with the defendant’s right to a fair trial mandated by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution….

The problem arises in two principal contexts. First, in advance of trial, and perhaps during the course of a trial as well, the prosecutor must decide what, if anything, he should voluntarily submit to defense counsel….

Because we are dealing with an inevitably imprecise standard, and because the significance of an item of evidence can seldom be predicted accurately until the entire record is complete, the prudent prosecutor will resolve doubtful questions in favor of disclosure.

United States v. Agurs, 1976.

Other case law uses language to the effect that a prosecutor, by holding back arguably exculpatory material from the defense, is gambling with any hard-won victory that might come out of the trial if it’s later determined that the material should have been produced.  Such a gamble — although up to the prosecutor who gets to make the initial decision to withhold the material — often runs counter to the concept of “fairness” in the criminal justice system.

Goldman goes on:

Eventually the F.B.I. agreed to release the documents because they contained no classified or sensitive material.

In a pending criminal prosecution, the FBI doesn’t decide anything.  In fact, I rarely gave their opinion much weight on such questions.  When an agent — or more often his/her supervisor — wanted to offer an opinion on a prosecutor’s obligations, I would invite them to go to law school and apply for a job as a prosecutor.   Then they could make the decision themselves.  Nowhere in any SCOTUS opinion has the court ever said that the investigating agency’s opinion about what is or is not “Brady” is relevant to the question of what a prosecutor is ethically obligated to do.

“Your honor, I knew the material was covered by Brady, but the FBI didn’t want me to provide it to the defense because it would embarrass the Bureau.  Please affirm the Defendant’s death sentence.”

Back to Mr. Goldman:

Mr. Van Grack and Ms. Ballantine, the prosecutors on the case, acknowledged the facts but vociferously disagreed with Mr. Jensen’s legal argument that Mr. Flynn’s lies were immaterial…

Heaven Help Me!!!!   How many times can this guy write the same thing without realizing the inanity of the point he thinks he’s making.  Again — what would it say about Van Grack and Ballentine’s ethics if they agreed now that their case was baseless for the two and one-half years they pursued Gen. Flynn?  How could they take ANY position now other than disagree with U.S. Attorney Jensen’s conclusion?

Mr. Jensen agreed, as did Mr. Barr, and they filed their request [to dismiss the case]. Even though they knew it was coming, some prosecutors on the case expressed shock, associates said.

So what? I’m sure there were prosecutors who were shocked when Pres. Obama commuted the sentence of the head of the FALN Puerto Rican terrorist group for dozens of bombings in the 1970s.

Mr. Priestap’s notes, taken hours before agents questioned Mr. Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017, showed that F.B.I. officials were debating how to proceed and trying to determine the objective of questioning Mr. Flynn.

Those notes reflected Mr. Priestap’s own thoughts before meeting with F.B.I. leadership to discuss how to question Mr. Flynn, the people said.

Where is the reference to the Page and Strzok email exchanges wherein Page said FBI Dep. Dir. Andy McCabe was frustrated with Priestap’s resistance to interviewing Flynn?  Those messages are on the evening of the 23rd and morning of the 24th, and clearly suggest that Preistap was not totally on board.  One message on the morning of the 24th from Page says that McCabe “cut him off” when Priestap tried to raise it with Comey just prior to Comey sending the agents to interview Gen. Flynn.  Isn’t all that “context” for what Priestap wrote in his notes??  Yet nothing about those messages appears in Goldman’s story.

Mr. Barr has called Mr. Flynn’s conversations with Mr. Kislyak “laudable” and said that his lies were immaterial to the Russia investigation, rejecting the view of the prosecutors who had said that Mr. Flynn hurt the inquiry by misleading the F.B.I. agents.

Where did the prosecutors make that statement Mr. Goldman?  The lack of a “quote” or citation to a source is curious.  Point to the transcript or a filed document where the prosecutors made that representation — that Gen. Flynn’s answers “hurt the inquiry.”  If not, I think your readers are entitled to fairly consider whether you just made it up (and you don’t really understand what “materiality” refers to).

Judge Sullivan has also said the lies were material.

Judge Sullivan TWICE said on the record in court on Dec. 18, 2018, that he had questions about whether Gen. Flynn’s answers were material. He said he did not know and he wanted the lawyers — prosecutors and defense counsel — to be prepared to answer questions on that subject at the next hearing.  I wrote about that.  You can read about it here.

Goldman’s comment about Sullivan is a flat-out lie, and shows Adam Goldman 1) hasn’t read the transcript, or 2) doesn’t understand what he read if he did, or 3) read it, understands it, and is willing to write knowing falsehoods nevertheless.