Trump shrugs off firestorm af­ter Flynn plea

Pres­i­dent re­peats ‘no col­lu­sion’ claim over Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, brands Comey al­le­ga­tion ‘fake news’

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - World -

WASHINGTON — US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump shrugged off the news that his for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser had pleaded guilty to ly­ing to the FBI and will co­op­er­ate with a special pros­e­cu­tor prob­ing Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling.

As the Rus­sia probe over­shad­owed a ma­jor leg­isla­tive win, the Se­nate’s pass­ing of land­mark tax cuts, Trump again in­sisted he and his cam­paign had not col­luded with Rus­sia.

Trump also sug­gested he has been hold­ing back some­thing im­por­tant re­gard­ing what he knew at the time of ex-se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn’s fir­ing.

“I had to fire Gen­eral Flynn be­cause he lied to the Vice Pres­i­dent and the FBI. He has pleaded guilty to those lies. It is a shame be­cause his ac­tions dur­ing the tran­si­tion were law­ful. There was noth­ing to hide!” Trump tweeted.

The rev­e­la­tion changes the time­line of the drama in a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous way for Trump.

At the time of Flynn’s dis­missal, the White House ac­knowl­edged only that he had lied to Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence — not the FBI — about his dis­cus­sions with Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak over sanc­tions then­pres­i­dent Barack Obama slapped on Rus­sia for med­dling in the elec­tion.

Trump’s ties with Flynn have been un­der in­tense scru­tiny since the pres­i­dent fired FBI di­rec­tor James Comey in May.

Comey tes­ti­fied un­der oath be­fore a Se­nate panel in June that a day af­ter Flynn’s fir­ing, Trump asked him to drop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity di­rec­tor.

How­ever, on Sunday Trump de­nied this in a tweet, brand­ing the al­le­ga­tion “more fake news”.

Trump on Satur­day re­peated his de­nials of col­lu­sion with Moscow.

“What has been shown is no col­lu­sion. There’s been ab­so­lutely no col­lu­sion. So we’re very happy,” he said as he left for a day trip to New York.

Special pros­e­cu­tor Robert Mueller’s fo­cus goes be­yond pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Rus­sia to shady busi­ness deal­ings and whether Trump him­self tried to thwart the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

If Trump’s lat­est state­ment on Twit­ter is ac­cu­rate, it would mean that when he al­legedly pressed Comey to drop the probe into Flynn, Trump al­ready knew that Flynn had lied to Comey’s agency.

A lin­ger­ing part of the drama has been that af­ter the White House learned through the Jus­tice Depart­ment that Flynn lied to the White House about dis­cussing sanc­tions with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador, Trump still waited 18 days to fire him.

Trump fired Comey in May and said he had the Rus­sia probe in mind when he did it. The move back­fired and led the Jus­tice Depart­ment to ap­point Mueller as the special pros­e­cu­tor.

Trump’s tweet about Flynn ly­ing to both Pence and the FBI prompted Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, to pose some fol­low-up ques­tions.

“If that is true, Mr. Pres­i­dent, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn? Why did you fail to act un­til his lies were pub­licly ex­posed? And why did you pres­sure Di­rec­tor Comey to ‘let this go?’” he asked on Twit­ter.

Comey him­self seemed to be ad­dress­ing the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in an In­sta­gram mes­sage: “To para­phrase the Bud­dha — Three things can­not be long hid­den: the sun; the moon; and the truth.”

The Washington Post re­ported, cit­ing two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter, that Trump’s tweet had been writ­ten by the pres­i­dent’s lawyer John Dowd.

That calls into ques­tion what Trump knew about Flynn’s lies, but also raises ques­tions about the pres­i­dent’s le­gal PR strat­egy.


For­mer US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn ar­rives for a plea hear­ing at US Dis­trict Court on Fri­day.

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