Donald Trump on Saturday tweeted his defiance over the guilty plea made by his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, writing that the general’s “actions during the transition were lawful”.
The president passed comment on the same day it the New York Times reported that a “veteran FBI counterintelligence agent” was removed in the summer from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian meddling in the US election, after the discovery of an exchange of anti-Trump text messages.
The New York Times also reported that emails “among top transition officials” showed Flynn did not act independently in contacting Russian officials, as the White House has claimed.
Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to one charge of lying to the FBI, regarding conversations he had with the then Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, after Trump’s election victory last November and before he assumed power in January.
Flynn also announced that he was cooperating with Mueller and was ready to testify about Russian contacts. Analysts said his cooperation placed senior Trump aides and the president himself in the line of fire.
On a visit to New York on Saturday to attend fundraisers for his re-election fund and the Republican National Committee, Trump was in a celebratory mood after the Senate passed its tax reform bill in a late-night session.
Asked about Flynn as he left the White House, the president told reporters: “What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion. There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy. And frankly last night was one of the big nights. We’ll see what happens.”
From New York, where he attended events at the Cipriani restaurant, the Pierre hotel and a private residence, he tweeted: “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!”
Flynn resigned as national security adviser after 24 days in the role, officially for misleading Vice-President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak. Trump has not previously indicated that he knew Flynn had done something illegal, such as lying to the FBI, as opposed to merely politically improper.
The New York Times released two bombshell reports on Saturday. In one, the newspaper said that among emails its reporters had obtained or had described to them by “someone who had access to transition…