Did Trump’s tweet about Michael Flynn’s guilty plea just admit something it shouldn’t have?
Update: The Post is now reporting that the tweet was authored by Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, according to two people familiar with the situation. The fact that Dowd authored the tweet could limit its salience to the investigation, but the White House still hasn’t publicly corrected anything.
A little more than 24 hours after Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, President Trump finally took to Twitter to offer his thoughts. He may wish he hadn’t.
In his first tweet on the subject since Flynn’s plea, Trump argued that Flynn had no reason to lie about his actions because they weren’t unlawful. But it’s the first part of the tweet that caught plenty of people’s attention.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump began.
Except when Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, he mentioned only Flynn’s comments to Vice President Pence — not the FBI. In fact, Flynn’s contradictory comments to the FBI on his meeting with the Russian ambassador weren’t public knowledge at the time. And the current timeline as we understand it does not suggest the White House had direct knowledge of what Flynn told the FBI at the time.
Flynn’s comments to the FBI didn’t come into the public domain until three days after his dismissal, on Feb. 16, when The Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz and Adam Entous reported that Flynn had wrongly denied discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador:
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said.
The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy. Lying to the FBI is a felony offense. But several officials said it is unclear whether prosecutors would attempt to bring a case, in part because Flynn may parse the definition of the word “sanctions.”
Some see a problematic admission in Trump’s tweet on Saturday — possibly even something that could be construed as an admission to obstruction of justice. Here’s why:
The day after Trump fired Flynn, on Feb. 14, Trump urged then-FBI Director James B. Comey to be lenient with Flynn, according to Comey’s notes at the time, saying, “I hope you can let this go.” If Trump knew at that time that Flynn had lied to the FBI and was under investigation, the argument goes, it may constitute an attempt to obstruct that investigation.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, suggested the tweet could prove a major misstep for the president and even that it might have cost any other president his job.
…just couldn’t resist commenting on Flynn.
Are you ADMITTING you knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when you asked Comey to back off Flynn??????????????????????????????????????????? https://t.co/HJWlUvC99F