Trump backs Flynn’s dealings with Russia
President Donald Trump has responded to a guilty plea by his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying Flynn’s actions as a member of his transition team “were lawful”.
Flynn has entered a plea deal and agreed to co-operate with an inquiry into alleged collusion with Russia.
The deal, for a lesser charge than he might have faced, prompted speculation that he has incriminating evidence.
The president wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he had “nothing to hide”.
Flynn is co-operating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading an investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia ahead of the 2016 election.
On Saturday, a day after Flynn’s indictment, it emerged that a veteran Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent had been dismissed from Mueller’s team after the discovery that he had sent anti-Trump text messages.
Peter Strzok was removed from the investigation in summer, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office told the New York Times.
Saturday was a momentous day for Trump, after his sweeping tax reform bill finally scraped through the senate in the early hours of the morning with 51 votes to 49.
But, as he left the White House hours after the vote, he was quick to address Flynn’s admission the day before of lying to the FBI.
“What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion. There has been absolutely no collusion. So we’re very happy,” he told reporters.
In denying that Flynn had acted unlawfully as part of his transition team, Trump appeared in his tweet to admit that he knew the former general had lied to the FBI before he fired him in February – contradicting the president’s account at the time.
Analysts say if Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, at a time he appeared to pressure then-FBI director James Comey to drop the agency’s investigation into the former general, it could amount to obstruction of justice by the president.
Matthew Miller, a former Obama administration Justice Department official said in a tweet: “Oh my god, he just admitted to obstruction of justice. If Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI when he asked Comey to let it go, then there is your case.”
Sources close to the president told the Washington Post that the tweet had been drafted by Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, who later apologised and said he should have been more careful with his language. The White House has yet to comment.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that it had obtained internal emails sent by Trump’s transition team that disputed the White House assertion that Flynn acted alone in his contacts with Russian officials.
In one email quoted by the paper, a senior adviser appeared to say that Russia had “just thrown the U.S.A. election to him”, referring to Trump.
A White House lawyer told the paper that the adviser, KT McFarland, had meant only that the Democrats were portraying it that way. — BBC
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