By KEN THOMAS
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Lobbing new criticism at the special counsel’s Russia investigation, President Donald Trump said Monday he feels “very badly” for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about reaching out to the Russians on the president’s behalf.
“I think it’s a shame,” Trump said of Flynn’s situation, adding that it’s “very unfair” and that Flynn had “led a very strong life.”
Trump tried to contrast Flynn’s treatment with that of his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, who he said “lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened.”
“Flynn lied and they destroyed his life,” Trump said.
The FBI didn’t conclude that Clinton lied to agents, however. Former FBI Director James Comey testified last year that agents found Clinton to be truthful in her interview, telling a House committee, “We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.”
Flynn is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Even as Trump sought to minimize Flynn’s misdeeds, the Kremlin insisted that Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. had not influenced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to sanctions imposed by Trump’s predecessor.
Flynn was forced to resign in February following reports that Obama administration officials had informed Trump’s team that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, a fact at odds with the public assertions of Vice President Mike Pence. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday it was “absurd” to suggest that the phone conversation could have influenced Putin’s decision and added that “such requests couldn’t have been passed on” to him.
Trump, who spoke to reporters Monday as he left the White House to head to Utah, unleashed a string of tweets over the weekend in which he criticized the FBI and raised questions about the federal investigation into Russian election meddling and possible ties to his campaign.
In one of his messages, Trump again denied that he directed Comey to stop investigating Flynn.
Trump questioned the direction of the federal law enforcement agency and wrote that after Comey, whom Trump fired in May, the FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” He vowed to “bring it back to greatness.” The president also retweeted a post saying new FBI Director Chris Wray “needs to…