The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday admitted to “inadvertently” to producing altered versions of handwritten notes and other documents written by disgraced and former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Peter Strzok.
In late September, Strzok complained–by way of his attorney Aitan Goelman–that “some” of Strzok’s notes “appear[ed] to have been altered” and the aspersion cast blame on attorneys for onetime National Security Advisor and retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn. To hear Strzok tell it, the documents were possibly tampered with in an effort to support the dismissal of Flynn’s criminal case.
“On at least two occasions, there were handwritten additions, not written by Mr. Strzok, inserting dates, apparently designed to indicate the date or dates on which the notes were written,” Goelman noted. “On at least one occasion, the date added is wrong and could be read to suggest that a meeting at the White House happened before it actually did.”
The next day, during a contentious and long-awaited hearing on the DOJ’s controversial motion to dismiss Flynn’s charges, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan addressed the issue–saying that he was “floored” by the allegations, which he found “very unsettling.”
During that hearing, government attorneys seemed unaware of the issue but promised they would attempt to get down to the bottom of Strzok’s allegations. Sullivan thanked them for their attention to the matter and went on to direct and formalize a mandate–telling DOJ that they should provide information as soon as reasonably possible.
Now, the DOJ says it was all a big misunderstanding.
In a discovery document filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin, Acting Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth C. Kohl and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn Ballantine said the confusion was all to do with the agency’s own use of several “sticky notes.”
“On September 23, 2020, the government disclosed handwritten notes of former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok (23501 & 23503) that were obtained and analyzed by [the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri] during the course of its review,” the filing says. “During the review, agents for [the Eastern District of Missouri] placed a single yellow sticky note on each page of the notes with estimated dates (the notes themselves are undated). Those two sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned.”
Additional inadvertent alterations by DOJ also occurred on one document attributed to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, according to the filing. In McCabe’s case, however, the government says they used and forgot to remove “clear sticky notes (with a colored tab).”
The discovery amendments go on to request that Judge Sullivan “destroy” the prior versions of the documents in question.
“The content of the notes was not otherwise altered,” each filing asserts.
To be clear, the allegations were made BY @petestrzok not against him. He was alleging the documents had been altered. The FBI is saying they forgot to remove their post-it notes before uploading copies of the originals. https://t.co/mC0RzbRNaV
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) October 7, 2020
When Flynn’s lawyers Sidney Powell and Jesse Binnall originally filed the tranche documents on September 24, the lawyers claimed they were evidence of “outrageous, deliberate misconduct by FBI and and DOJ—playing games with the life of a national hero.”
[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]