ST. LOUIS — The U.S. attorney assisting in the Justice Department’s review of the criminal case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is an ex-FBI agent with a long background in battling white-collar crime.
A person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney in St. Louis and an appointee of President Donald Trump who was confirmed by the Senate in October 2017, is aiding in the review.
Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. A Justice Department official said Jensen is working with Brandon Van Grack, a member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, to review the Flynn case.
The people could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Jensen’s spokeswoman, Terri Dougherty, did not immediately respond to phone and email messages Friday.
A re-examination of the Flynn investigation is likely to deepen criticism from Democrats who have argued that Barr’s actions are more in line with someone acting like the president’s personal lawyer than the attorney general. And news of the review comes days after the Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors — who had recommended in a court filing that Trump’s longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to 7 to 9 years in prison — and took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek.
All four prosecutors who were on the trial team quit the Stone case and one left the Justice Department altogether.
Jensen worked as a certified public accountant before joining the FBI in 1989. He spent 10 years with the FBI and attended Saint Louis University School of Law at night, graduating magna cum laude.
He joined the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis in 1999. Soon after he took over as U.S. attorney in 2005, Catherine Hanaway appointed Jensen to the No. 2 role, executive U.S. attorney.
Hanaway, now in private practice, said Jensen’s focus in the FBI was often on white-collar crime, dating to the savings and loan crisis in the 1990s. As her top assistant, he continued to lead many white-collar crime investigations, she said.
Hanaway said Jensen, in investigating the Flynn case, won’t be swayed by any outside influences.
“He’s fair and unbiased, and he’s going to do the right thing, even with a lot of pressure from any quarter to be influenced other than what the facts and the law lead to,” Hanaway said. “He will always be led by what the facts and the law dictate should be done.”
Washington University School of Law adjunct professor David Rosen worked with Jensen when Jensen was with the FBI and when both were assistant U.S. attorneys.
“One of the things that has been consistent in the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis is that politics don’t intrude,” Rosen said. “He’s from that tradition, that the U.S. attorney’s office is going to be independent of politics, and I’m sure he’ll do his very best to make sure that happens in this matter, too.”
Jensen left the U.S. attorney’s office in 2009 around the time then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat, replaced Hanaway with his own appointee, Richard Callahan. In the years that he was away from the federal office, Jensen worked for the Husch Blackwell law firm, where he specialized in “complex federal litigation, including internal compliance investigations and reviews, and emergency response to government investigations,” the firm’s website said.
In his two years as U.S. attorney, Jensen has largely maintained a low profile, rarely holding news conferences or granting interviews.
St. Louis attorney Al Watkins called Jensen “a straight-shooter. His word is good. When he says something you can count on it. He’s rock-solid.”
The office’s attention under Jensen’s leadership has shifted to a greater focus on violent crime. Hanaway said that’s largely because of the abundance of violence in St. Louis, which has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates.
Under Jensen’s leadership, the U.S. attorney’s office has taken over prosecution of several murder cases, carjackings and other violent crimes.
In November, Jensen announced that 162 fugitives, including murder suspects and gang members, were arrested during a three-month St. Louis-area crackdown under a Justice Department program called “Operation Triple Beam,” a joint effort involving federal, state and local law officers. Sixteen of the arrests were connected to homicides.
Jensen’s office also prosecuted four former St. Louis police officers accused in an attack of an undercover city officer who was disguised as a protester during a 2017 demonstration in downtown St. Louis.
AP reporter Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.
Jim Salter, The Associated Press