Donald Trump defends Michael Flynn’s Russia contacts during transition as ‘lawful’ saying there is ‘nothing to hide’

US President Donald Trump has declared that Michael Flynn’s actions contacts with Russian officials after the election in 2016 were “lawful” in the wake of his former national security advisers guilty plea for lying to the FBI.

Mr Flynn was the first member of Mr Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging federal investigation into Russian attempts to influence the presidential election and possible collusion by Trump campaign officials. Mr Flynn – who spent three decades in the military – has agreed to cooperate with the investigation as part of a plea agreement.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” Mr Trump said on Twitter. “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

Mr Flynn was only in his White House position for 24 days, having been forced to resign after he was said to have “misled” Vice President Mike Pence over his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.

As part of a agreement with investigators in the Russia probe, Mr Flynn pleaded guilty in a Washington DC courtroom on Friday to one count of making false statements to the FBI over his contact with Mr Kislyak in December – just weeks before Mr Trump took office.

The pair were said to have discussed US sanctions against Russia on 29 December, on the same day that former President Barack Obama imposed new sanctions on Moscow over the election meddling – in an apparent effort to undermine Mr Obama’s actions. Mr Obama had warned Mr Trump against hiring Mr Flynn – who worked as Defense Intelligence Agency chief during his administration – shortly after the presidential election.

Mr Flynn asked Mr Kislyak to refrain from escalating a diplomatic dispute with Washington over the sanctions, and later falsely told FBI officials that he did not make that request, court documents released after Mr Flynn’s guilty plea, show. The following day, President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would not retaliate against the United States for its latest round of sanctions, a move subsequently praised by Mr Trump as “very smart”.

According to prosecutors, on 22 December, Mr Flynn discussed with Mr Kislyak an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements and called on him to help delay or defeat the motion. Mr Flynn…

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