Mr Flynn pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about his contact with then-Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak about sanctions and a UN vote over Israel, and had agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign team.
“What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion,” Mr Trump spoke as he departed the White House to head to New York for political fundraisers expected to raise millions of dollars. “There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy”.
However, critics jumped on a later tweet that Mr Trump later sent our saying: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Some have suggested that it amounted to an admission that Mr Trump knew that Mr Flynn – who was interviewed by the FBI on 24 January – was lying before the national security adviser was forced to resign on 13 February, having been said to have given inaccurate statements about his interactions with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Pence. Some, including California Democrat Representative Ted Lieu, suggested that the tweet could show obstruction of justice, with former FBI director James Comey alleging during testimony to Congress that Mr Trump had subsequently suggested he drop the investigation into Mr Flynn. That suggestion – which lawyers for Mr Trump have denied the president making – was alleged to have taken place on 14 February during a meeting at the White House.
The White House has sought to play doen the tweet, with White House Counsel John Dowd saying that the tweet “simply paraphrases” a statement issued on Friday by Ty Cobb, a White House attorney, which said Mr Flynn’s guilty plea implicated him alone.
“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” Mr Cobb said. The statement added that “entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI. The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year.“
The Washington Post reported that the tweet was potentially drafted by Mr Dowd, while they also quoted unnamed administration officials that called the tweet simply “sloppy” and “unfortunate”.
Mr Flynn is the first official within the Trump administration to be charged in relation to the investigation, but is the fourth person connected to the Trump campaign.
In October, Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his associate Rick Gates, were charged with 12 counts of financial crimes related to their work in Ukraine. All of which they denied. At the same time, Mr Mueller revealed foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia-linked individuals – a similar charge that Mr Flynn admitted to as part of the plea deal.
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The federal probe led by Mr Mueller had started as an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but expanded to include possible collusion between Trump officials and Russia. The investigation was originally led by Mr Comey, before he was fired by Mr Trump in May.
But, Mr Flynn’s plea agreement is a milestone for Mr Mueller’s team, that brings the investigation into the White House and shines the spotlight on other members of Mr Trump’s transition team as he moved into the White House.