Mike Flynn has ‘nothing to hide’, Donald Trump says

US president’s ex-security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to FBI about Russia contacts

The guilty plea by Michael T Flynn, US President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, brings the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election into Mr Trump’s inner circle. Video: The New York Times

 

US president Donald Trump has said the actions of his former national security adviser Mike Flynn after the 2016 election were “lawful”.

Mr Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.

“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!” Mr Trump said in a tweet.

He earlier insisted there was “absolutely no collusion” between his election campaign and Russia.

Mr Flynn on Friday appeared in a federal court. His guilty plea marked the fourth charge in Mr Mueller’s investigation but was the first to involve someone who worked inside the White House.

Mr Flynn was appointed as the top US security job by Mr Trump in January, but was dismissed less than a month into the job after he was found to have lied about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Significantly, Mr Flynn has now also said he discussed his conversations with the Russian ambassador with an unidentified senior official in the Trump team in December, a claim that suggests the Trump team knew about Mr Flynn’s contacts with Russia. Several media outlets identified this senior official as Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, though these reports were not confirmed.

Tweet

Mr Trump was asked about the issue as he left the White House on Saturday morning and said there was “absolutely no collusion”. It is all he has said about the matter so far.

‘Full responsibility’

In a statement after he appeared in court on Friday, Mr Flynn said he took “full responsibility” for what he had done and that he was co-operating with the FBI.

“My guilty plea and agreement to co-operate with the special counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country,” he said.

While the development does not unearth any fresh information linking Mr Trump and Russia, the documents in Mr Flynn’s case show an active engagement between him and the Russian ambassador, particularly during the transition period between Mr Trump’s election victory and his inauguration.

Among the most serious revelations is that Russia chose to temper its behaviour towards the United States on advice from Mr Flynn on at least one occasion. According to the court documents, after then president Barack Obama introduced sanctions against Russia in December, Mr Flynn advised Moscow not to escalate the situation.

Mr Kislyak told Mr Flynn that Russia had indeed chosen to “moderate its response”. A day after the sanctions announcement, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not retaliate against the sanctions, a stance that surprised the international community at the time.

Delay

The documents also show that Mr Flynn contacted foreign ambassadors ahead of a key UN Security Council vote on Israel in December – one of the last major policy initiatives of the Obama administration – advising them to delay or vote against the resolution.

Bloomberg reported that Mr Kushner advised Mr Flynn to contact these representatives, though this report was unconfirmed.

There were also unconfirmed reports on Friday that Mr Flynn was prepared to tell investigators that Mr Trump himself directed him to contact Russian officials, a development that would suggest collusion between the US president and Russia during the election. The Russia investigation has dogged Mr Trump since he was elected as the 45th president of the United States in January.

James Comey, the former head of the FBI who has fired by Mr Trump in May, testified to the US senate that Mr Trump had asked him in February to drop an investigation into Mr Flynn.

Mr Trump has previously denounced the Mueller investigation as a “witch-hunt,” and several Republican members of Congress have called on Mr Mueller to resign in recent weeks.