WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that actions by former national security adviser Michael Flynn during the presidential transition were lawful, and that he had had to fire him because Flynn had lied to the FBI and the vice president.
The president’s comment suggested he may have known Flynn lied to the FBI before he urged the FBI director not to investigate his former adviser, legal experts said. But they noted that it was unclear from the tweeted comment exactly what the president knew when.
Flynn is the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election and possible collusion by Trump aides.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” Trump said on Twitter while he was in New York for a fundraising trip. “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Flynn, who on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, is a former Defense Intelligence Agency director who was Trump’s national security adviser only for 24 days. He was forced to resign after he was found to have misled Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.
“What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for the New York trip. “There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy.”
Establishing when Trump was told Flynn lied to the FBI agents could be key to determining if the president acted improperly.
According to a person familiar with the matter, during a conversation between White House counsel Don McGahn and then-acting attorney general Sally Yates in January, Yates told McGahn that Flynn had told FBI agents the same thing he had told Pence.
This was the same conversation reported earlier this year in which Yates told McGahn that Flynn had misled the vice president about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and that he might be compromised, the person said.
However, Yates did not give McGahn the impression that the FBI was actively pursuing Flynn for lying, the source said. McGahn did not believe the FBI was investigating Flynn for lying because the bureau had…