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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security, claimed in a New York Times op-ed Sunday that the Justice Department's motion to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn "twisted" her words to suggest that the FBI's 2017 interview of Flynn was illegitimate.

Why it matters: The Justice Department's filing relies in part on McCord's July 2017 interview with the FBI to argue that the FBI had no valid counterintelligence reason to interview Flynn, and that the former national security adviser's apparent lies were therefore immaterial.

The big picture: The Flynn filing — signed by acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Timothy Shea, a close confidante of Attorney General Barr — notes that the FBI had intended to close its counterintelligence investigation of Flynn but extended it upon learning about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

  • The filing claims that the calls were "entirely appropriate on their face," and that nothing was said on the calls to indicate an "inappropriate relationship" between Flynn and Russia.
  • Therefore, "there was no factual basis for the predication of a new counterintelligence investigation," the filing states. "Nor was there a justification or need to interview Mr. Flynn as to his own personal recollections of what had been said."
  • The filing cites a summary of McCord's interview with the FBI more than 25 times to show that Justice Department leadership wanted to notify the incoming Trump administration of the Flynn-Kislyak communications, but that the FBI refused.

Yes, but: McCord claims in her op-ed that her interview does not help support the conclusion that the interview shouldn't have taken place, and that "it is disingenuous for the department to twist my words to suggest that it does."

What she's saying: "What the account of my interview describes is a difference of opinion about what to do with the information that Mr. Flynn apparently had lied to the incoming vice president, Mr. Pence, and others in the incoming administration about whether he had discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia in his calls with Mr. Kislyak," McCord writes.

  • The filing describes the FBI's reasons for not wanting to notify the incoming Trump administration about Flynn's lies as "vacillating from the potential compromise of a “counterintelligence” investigation to the protection of a purported “criminal” investigation."
  • But McCord claims this "vacillation" has "no bearing" on whether the FBI interview was justified, whether Flynn's lies were material to the Russia investigation, or whether they were material to the "clear counterintelligence threat" that Flynn's lies posed due to the risk of blackmail. "The materiality is obvious," she writes.

The bottom line: "In short, the report of my interview does not anywhere suggest that the FBI’s interview of Mr. Flynn was unconstitutional, unlawful or not “tethered” to any legitimate counterintelligence purpose," McCord concludes.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper: Read the full op-ed

Go deeper

Nadler accuses Barr of undermining democratic norms in opening statement

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) painted the integrity of the Justice Department as "more at risk than at any time in modern history" in opening remarks at a hearing for Attorney General Bill Barr Tuesday, accusing him of shielding President Trump from responsibility and eroding democratic norms.

Why it matters: The hearing, which focuses on the DOJ's alleged politicization under Barr, is the attorney general's first time appearing before the committee. Barr in his own remarks accused the committee's Democrats of trying to discredit him over his investigations into the origins of the FBI's Russia probe.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.