Critics claimed on Saturday that President Trump inadvertently admitted to obstruction of justice as he tried to distance himself from his disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump spoke out for the first time a day after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian officials.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon.
Former Obama-era Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Trump appears to have fessed up to breaking the law in his post — by admitting he knew Flynn fibbed while talking to the feds.
“Oh my god, he just admitted to obstruction of justice,” former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller tweeted. “If Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI when he asked Comey to let it go, then there is your case.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also said Trump’s tweet was proof of wrongdoing.
“THIS IS OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. @POTUS now admits he KNEW Michael Flynn lied to the FBI. Yet Trump tried to influence or stop the FBI investigation on Flynn,” Lieu tweeted.
Flynn was booted from the White House after it became public that he misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
President Trump tweeted “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”
The White House gave no indication at the time that it knew Flynn had lied to the FBI in a January interview about those conversations.
A day after Flynn resigned on Feb. 13, Trump approached former FBI director James Comey and asked him to drop the federal investigation into Flynn, Comey testified before Congress.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump reportedly told Comey.
Flynn accepted a plea deal on Friday on one count of lying to federal agents — part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“We’ll see what happens,” the President said when asked if still stood by the retired general. Trump added that he was not concerned about Flynn’s cooperation with investigators.
Trump capped his social media postings Saturday night by questioning the extent of the criminal probe against his former adviser.
He used his tweet as another opportunity to slam his Democratic rival.
Disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
“So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that famous FBI holiday ‘interrogation’ with no wearing in and no recording, lies many times…and nothing happens to her,” Trump mused.
“Rigged system, or just a double standard,” he asked.
According to court documents, a “senior member” and a “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team — reportedly former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — directed Flynn to call Kislyak and other foreign officials about sanctions and a UN resolution related to Israel.
Emails among top Trump officials last December obtained by The New York Times reveal that Flynn’s attempt to dissuade Russia from retaliating against sanctions imposed by the Obama administration was common knowledge.
“Key will be Russia’s response over the next few days,” McFarland wrote in an email to a fellow transition official, Thomas Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, The Times reported Saturday.
“If there is a tit-for-tat escalation Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown U.S.A. election to him,” McFarland, whom Trump has nominated to be ambassador to Singapore, wrote to other transition officials.
One of Trump’s lawyers told the New Yorker on Saturday that it doesn’t matter if anyone in the Trump campaign colluded with Russia because there is no law on the books against it.
“For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated,” Jay Sekulow told the magazine.
With Nicole Hensley